Bean Thread Noodles with Pickled Vegetables

About a year ago, my sweet Sister-in-Law gave me a year’s subscription to Bon Appetit magazine as a gift. By reading this magazine, I have been around the world many times from the comfort of my own living room. From the Adalusia region of Spain to Shanghai China to Africa and beyond, I have begun a quest to eat the world’s cuisine. What an adventure it has been so far.

Here is one of the great Asian dish recipes that leaped off the pages:

Bean Thread Noodles

BEAN THREAD NOODLES WITH PICKLED VEGETABLES

6 oz. wide bean thread noodles
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. finely grated peeled ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large daikon, julienned
1 English hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, peeled, julienned
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup torn fresh cilantro, divided
3/4 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped, divided.

Place noodles in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let noodles soak until tender but not mushy, 20 minutes; drain. Rinse under cold water and drain well. 

Whisk garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, sugar, ginger and pepper in another large bowl. Add daikon, cucumber and carrots; toss to combine. Let sit 10 minutes.

Add noodles, oil, half of cilantro and half of peanuts to bowl; toss to combine. Top salad with remaining cilantro and peanuts.

There were some great personal lessons here for me. The first is that I get distracted easily which led me to not buying a daikon. I was at the Asian grocery store here in Salt Lake but forgot to buy one. Having lived in Southeast Asia, I was in complete nostalgia at the store. The chili garlic sauce, noodles, juices and other delights all commanded my attention. Due to that, I did not include daikon in the dish.

The other lesson was that I am sometimes in such a rush to get to things that I scan instead of read. While grating ginger into the marinade, I began thinking that 2 Tablespoons was a lot of ginger. Going back and actually reading (rather than scanning) the ingredients, I saw that it was 2 Teaspoons of ginger, not 2 Tablespoons.

The dish was wonderful. The marinade has a bitter flavor but not enough to overwhelm. It’s just enough that when it touches your tongue, the glands on the side of your mouth begin to water, craving more. Bean thread noodles are a clear glass noodle without a lot of flavor. The marinade does a beautiful job of flavoring those throughout. It reminded me of the Vietnamese Vinaigrette at La Cai Noodle House.

The veggies and herbs make it the epitome of freshness. This can be a great side or main dish.

Thank you Bon Appetit.

Happy Eating

Breakfast Smoothie: My 5 Hour Energy!

Starting back in September, Rachel and I began having smoothies for breakfast. They are healthy, filling and refreshing. Just recently, she made a new smoothie that was wonderful and now we are on top of the world.

Having received a Ninja Blender as a Christmas present, it makes it all the more easy to throw things in the there. Sous Chef Jesse told me that he & his friend even put an old cell phone in their Ninja Blender and it worked beautifully.

Breakfast Smoothie

1 Red Delicious Apple, sliced
1 Cup Fresh Spinach
1 Banana
1/3 Cup Greek Honey Yogurt
1/3 Cup Milk (or Silk Milk)
1/2 Teaspoon Flax Seed

The apple, spinach and yogurt make a perfect plural marriage. It also gets you loaded up on fruits and vegetables to start the day.

Happy Eating

Smoked Turkey Breasts: Citrus Soy & Honey Sherry!

My brother-in-law asked if I wanted a couple of turkey breasts. They give them away at his work and he even had a couple packages in his freezer from last year. The package is not a pretty sight. It’s plain, ugly, see-through and weighs as much as a bowling ball. They tried to cook some up but were disappointed in the result. I said that I would be happy to give them a shot.

It took a couple of days to thaw them out. While finishing the thawing process in the sink, Rachel was convinced that they were both Haggis which contains a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs. She all but promised at that moment not to taste the turkey, no matter how good I said that it was.

I decided that an overnight marinade would be best. A separate marinade for each breast would give us the opportunity to to see how different flavor combinations worked.

Citrus Soy Marinade
 allrecipes.com










In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, basil, and pepper. Rub over the turkey breasts. Insert one clove into each end of the turkey breasts, and one in the center.

In a large shallow dish, blend vegetable oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, and brown sugar. Place the turkey breast in the dish, and turn to coat. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Smoke turkey breast at a temperature between 225 degrees F. and 250 degrees F. for 2 1/2 to 4 hours depending on the size of the turkey. The breast will be done when it has reached an internal temperature of 170 degrees F.

Honey Sherry Marinade
about.com

1 skinless, boneless turkey breast (3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup dry sherry
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat honey, sherry and butter in a saucepan over a low heat long enough to melt the butter. Stir until even. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and salt. Let cool. Wash and pat dry the turkey breast. Place everything in a resealable plastic bag. Seal and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, but not more than 24 hours. Prepare smoker. Smoke turkey breast at a temperature between 225 degrees F. and 250 degrees F. for 2 1/2 to 4 hours depending on the size of the turkey. The breast will be done when it has reached an internal temperature of 170 degrees F.

The turkey breasts were incredibly moist and flavorful. I wondered if they would have any taste at all based on the skepticism of the giver. The Citrus Soy Marinade was good but a little overpowering. I preferred the Honey Sherry Marinade. It was sweet and smooth with a delicious glaze.

My brother-in-law said that I could have more turkey breasts upon request. When I told him how delicious they were and that I would love some more, he told me that this would be no problem, as long as I invited them up. Absolutely! It’s impossible to eat 6 pounds of turkey by yourself anyway.

Happy Eating

Brined and Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey

About two months prior to Thanksgiving I was assigned the task of bringing the turkeys. Okay, I might have volunteered. Sous Chefs Sam & Jesse know that when I volunteer, it means all three of us.

I took some time pondering what would be best. Smoking the turkey was definitely a must as I had done this last summer. I heard of brining but never had done this. As I studied more about it, I was getting very excited. There are so many ways to take it, the only question was which one?

Brining is a process where you marinate the meat in a salt solution allowing it to retain more moisture. Basically, salt water and many variations of spices are used. We went with a simple brine.

Simple Turkey Brine

1 turkey, up to 16 pounds
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
2 large sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

Bring salt, sugar and 4 cups water to a boil in a very large pot, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved. Turn off heat, add remaining ingredients to brine base. Refrigerate uncovered, until cold. Adds 6 quarts water cold water to pot or bucket. Add turkey. Use plate, if needed, to fully submerge turkey. Cover, chill up to 72 hours (The turkey will be more moist and flavorful if allowed to brine the full 72 hours).

Smoking the turkey. Having smoked a turkey this past summer, I had a few key points regarding the process. We mixed rosemary with unsalted butter and rubbed the turkey inside, outside and under the skin. To stuff the turkey, we added sliced apples, oranges and red onion to the cavity, tied the legs and placed in the smoker for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Every 30 minutes we would spray the turkeys with apple cider for a tasty glaze. Last month, I did this with a pork shoulder and it was delicious.

It was a large family gathering so there would be 31 judges of our cooking. Prior to dinner I huddled with Sous Chefs Sam & Jesse to get our story straight. If the turkey was delicious, we all participate in the glory. If it was not good, then Jesse would take the fall. He reluctantly volunteered.

The verdict was unanimous, it was wonderful. I had never experienced such moist, flavorful turkey. The hickory smoke, apple, brine and all other ingredients was a menagerie of taste.

Sous Chef Sam wasted no time gorging himself

This was quite a process. One week prior to Thanksgiving we purchased the turkeys. After 4 days, they were adequately thawed. We then placed the turkeys in the brine from 8:30pm Monday to 7:30am on Thursday. At 8:30am, they were on the smoker. It was a tiring but beautiful experience. Food is an adventure, not a routine.

Happy Eating

Carbonara alla Roma: alla heart attack maybe; but alla delicious!

This recipe is likely not one that you would make if you were a health nut. Even if you are very healthy, your heart will feel heavy after eating and you will need to do a little more exercise that day. However, it’s a delicious dish and your palate will be very happy.

Thanks to the fabulous Penny Phillips for sharing this recipe. She is a wonderful cook and has taught me much. One evening we cooked up five Indian dishes. It was truly a party. Most recipes I will alter slightly as needed. Not Penny’s recipes; she has perfected them already.

Carbonara alla Roma

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 lb. pancetta
4 large eggs
1/2 cup pecorino cheese, grated
Salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. penne

Coordination of frying and boiling is important in this recipe; so while boiling the pasta in 3 quarts of water, gently fry the finely sliced (almost a julienne cut) pancetta in butter. Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and add a ladle full of hot pasta water. Drain the pasta and pour the eggs into the hot pasta pot. Immediately place the steaming penne back in the pasta pot (if it’s not completely drained, that’s all right) and pour the pancetta/butter combination on top. Sprinkle the pecorino, salt & pepper and toss vigorously.

The immediacy of the above steps is important because the eggs need to be cooked by the time you’re ready to serve. Sprinkle with additional pecorino.

Happy Eating

Chicken Valdostana: Rolled in Prosciutto and Smeared with Herb Butter!

Often I volunteer at cooking classes, mainly at Orson Gygi. There is a lot of setting up stations, prepping food, helping students and cleaning dishes involved. It can be a long tiring evening. I do however get the pleasure of working close with Chefs. I love learning new cuisine styles and skills. A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of assisting Chef Tim Belarde. He owned restaurants in California for 15 years where he focused on Italian, Mexican and Cajun cuisines. Tonight it was Italian, which is a cuisine style that I want to improve upon.

The menu for the night was Chicken Valdostana, Mama’s Sauce, Tuscan Baked Bay Shrimp and Panzanella. We were in for a treat, and a lot of dishes. I didn’t get to do any cooking myself that evening. However, with the prep work, assisting at the cooking stations, tasting the food and talking with Chef Tim late into the night, I was optimistic that I could make the dish at home.

I was a little anxious as this past Saturday I would be cooking the Chicken Valdostana with Mama’s Sauce for the first time. Especially since I would be taking it to my buddy and his family whose 6 month old son was in the hospital. I wanted it to be a great meal for them. Thankfully Sous Chefs Sam & Jesse assisted me and we went to work.

Chicken Valdostana

5 boneless skinless chicken breasts
10 thin slices Prosciutto ham
10 – 1″ by 3″ block of mozzarella cheese
4 whole eggs
10 tablespoons herb butter (see below)

Cut the chicken breast in half and pound out chicken with a meat mallet. Spread a tablespoon of her butter on the inside of the chicken, and then lay the prosciutto over the butter. Place the mozzarella cheese at the bottom of the chicken breast and roll half way, tuck in the sides and roll the rest.

Place the rolls in the freezer for 15 minutes. Heat up 1 cup of cooking oil in a large skillet to about 325 degrees. Beat the eggs in a bowl, roll chicken in flour then dip in eggs. Carefully drop rolls in oil and cook until all sides are brown. Place on cookie sheet in oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Mama’s Sauce (A Rich Tomato Sauce)

1 6 ounce can tomato paste
8 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup yellow onions, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt & Pepper to taste

Sweat the onions and celery in oil, deglaze with red wine. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and nutmeg. Let simmer for 30-45 minutes-very important as flavors need to develop. Taste, season as necessary, then mix with hand blender.

To Serve: place chicken valdostana on dinner plate and ladle mama sauce over the rolls.

While tasting the Mama’s sauce I was quickly introduced to what “Rich” meant in Italian cooking. It means strong and powerful and takes you back a little bit. I am use to some sweetness in my Heavenly Homemade Pasta Sauce. It didn’t take long to get use to it and made a beautiful marriage with the chicken.

Herb Butter

1 lb butter
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Soften butter for 1 hour. Place all ingredients in mixer bowl and whip until light and fluffy; or double in size.

Happy Eating

Goat Cheese and Mango Quesadilas

This is a re-post due to popular demand.

Every Valentine’s Day since 2003, I have a tradition of cooking Rachel dinner. It started as a way to save money and avoid the crowds, but has become something that we both really enjoy. Since I love to cook, this works out well. It also keeps me from having to be part of the mass of men wandering through the store looking at cheesy valentine’s balloons, flowers, and chocolates. Yes, you can tell that I am a romantic.

Each year it is a dish that we have not eaten before. I always do a lot of research looking for a dish that is very “Rachie.” She loves fancy cheeses and breads, so when I came across the Goat Cheese and Mango Quesadillas dish, I knew that I had found the Valentine’s dinner for this year. Here it is:

Goat Cheese and Mango Quesadillas:

4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
6 whole wheat tortillas
1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

1. Spread goat cheese on tortillas. Divide mango, onion, jalapeno, and cilantro on one half of each tortilla. Fold tortilla over filling.

2. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook quesadillas until cheese softens and tortillas are crisp and browned in spots, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and cut each into 4 wedges. Serve it and Love it.

These were a huge hit. Once Rachel found out that goat cheese was in the dish (even before she knew the entire recipe), I was a hero. The creaminess of the goat cheese really mixed well with the other ingredients. The red onion added a sharpness that makes your mouth water.

Try it soon; you will love it also. You know where I found this recipe: Everyday FOOD magazine. There are quite a bit of good recipes here.

Happy Eating.

Boston Butt with a Honey Mustard Glaze

Now that’s a Big Butt!

What is a Boston Butt you ask? It’s another name for Pork Shoulder. It’s one of the meats that we judge at KCBS Competitions and it’s incredibly delicious. With another dinner coming up for the Society of Divine Foodies, I was excited to smoke a Boston Butt. It was another cut of meat on my list since I received my Traeger Smoker.

It’s amazing the amount of time it takes to smoke a butt, 1 1/2 hours per pound. Thankfully I marinated it Thursday night and put it on the smoker first thing Friday morning. Any day which starts with meat on the grill is a good day. Having never smoked one before, I was a little anxious.

The Smoker, 8:30am. That’s the start of a good day!

Honey Mustard glazed Boston Butt

1 5-7 pound Boston Butt/Pork Shoulder
3/4 cup yellow mustard
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt & Pepper, to sprinkle
2 cups apple cider

Sprinkle salt & pepper over meat. Mix yellow mustard, honey, Cajun seasoning and brown sugar in bowl. Spread honey mustard mix over every area of meat. Preheat smoker to 225 degrees. Place water pan in smoker to keep meat moist. Spray apple cider over meat every hour. Cook meat for 1 1/2 hours at 225 degrees for every pound of meat. It fully cooked when internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

The Smoker, 3:30pm

It’s a sight of pure beauty. I had to be careful not to stand there staring for too long every hour when I sprayed with apple cider. The temperature drops fast and takes a while to recover. Needless to say, it was beautiful when we pulled it off the grill 9 hours later.

6:00pm: off the smoker and resting

I had Sous Chef Sam pull, slice and chop the pork. We couldn’t help but taste test every few minutes. The crispy glazed exterior was something which belongs in a meat museum. It was the highlight of my day. Most of the honey mustard cooks off but allows the rub to stay on. There were hints of Cajun seasoning but nothing overpowering. You could taste the apple cider and it was delicious.

Sous Chef Sam performing The Chop

To serve, we placed the pulled pork on rolls, scooped on cole slaw and lathered apricot barbeque sauce over the top. Wow! Due to many people at our home, Sous Chef Sam and I ate at Ruby’s little table. Our knees were higher in the air than our plates of food. Uncomfortable but once you bit into the pulled pork slider, all your troubles were forgotten.

In addition to the pulled pork, we had skirt steak with scallion sauce, grilled patty pan squash and caramel chocolate cake among other items. Most of us were too full to move, yet we kept on nibbling. It was a night to remember. And just in case I fell in love with Boston Butt, I bought two. There is one in my freezer just waiting to be smoked. Most people count sheep when they can’t sleep. I think about what glaze I can do on my next piece of smoked meat.

Happy Eating

Pot Roast of the Extraordinary variety

While Rachel was out of town this past week, I thought that the best way to make dinner would be to put on a roast at midday. A little acid added to the roast (vinegar, lime or lemon juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco) goes a long way in bringing out the flavor. Last time, I added red wine vinegar but it was a little too much. Not wanting to do that again, and still turned off by the taste of red wine vinegar, I went with apple cider vinegar.

Apple Cider Roast

1 chuck roast
1 large vidalia onion, sliced
4 carrots, quartered
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 cup water

Pat Roast dry with paper towel. Season with salt & pepper. Sear both sides of roast in pan-this will seal in the juices. Add all ingredients into crock pot. Cook on high for 4 hours, low for 1 hour. Serve and Savor!

Thankfully the apple cider vinegar did not leave a flavor residue. It did due the job however. The roast was wonderfully tender and cooked to about medium-rare. The garlic, jalapenos and thyme could all be tasted but nothing overpowered the other. The carrots were addictive. Something about a nice, flavorful onion brings joy to my heart. I wrote here about how caramelized onions are as good as candy.

It was a fabulous dish. My Parent’s and Sous Chef Sam both stopped by the day after I cooked the roast so the leftovers went fast.

Happy Eating.

Fresh Summer Pasta

Sous Chef Sam and I needed to make dinner on Wednesday night and weren’t sure what to cook. We had tomatoes, fresh herbs, and heavy cream. There were other items available but these were the perishable foods. We were all over it.

I started boiling some noodles, had Sam chop the tomatoes, basil and some garlic. Rather than do a thick sauce like in my Bacon Fettucini, we decided to go thin. We sweated the garlic, poured in 1 pint of cream, and added the basil to let the flavors marry. Once reduced, we added some lemon juice, salt, and fresh cracked black pepper.

We put about 1/2 of the cooked noodles in a medium sized bowl, poured sauce and garlic over the top and sprinkled with fresh parsley. The verdict: it’s very lite and fresh but without a lot of “WOW” factor. To quote Sous Chef Sam, “Most of the food you make has some serious POP to it, this one is pretty mellow.”

Fresh Summer Pasta

12 ounces thin spaghetti
3 cloves garlic
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup basil, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large heirloom tomatoes, diced
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan

Directions: see above

The fresh heirloom tomatoes were amazing. That in conjunction with the basil, made you feel like you are sitting on the dirt in your garden pulling veggies from the vine. It was lite and didn’t have a lot of pop but was a little refreshing.

With the remaining pasta, we sprinkled Parmesan in the sauce. It definitely added the needed “WOW.”

Happy Eating

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