Recipe: Mussels with White Wine & Tomato

~ This is Day 75 ~

I get asked how to make this quite often from friends and family so I’m just going to write this really quickly. This is my favorite way to make mussels and clams. The best part after the mussels/clams? The bread dunking into the rich broth and into your mouth part.

  • 2 lbs mussels
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes (or substitute one 14 oz. can diced tomatoes)
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 TBS tomato paste
  • ¼ cup butter (optional)
  • ½ cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ lemon

Finely chop the onion and thinly slice the garlic cloves. Dice your tomatoes if using fresh ones. Finely chop your parsley, reserve some for garnish.

Scrub the mussels and toss out the dead/damaged ones. If they’re open and don’t close when you poke them, they’re bad. Remove the beards if they have them. Set aside.

In a large pot with lid, heat up enough olive oil to almost cover base of pot. Sweat onions and garlic until aromatic and tender. Add in diced tomatoes and thyme. Season a little with salt, turn heat to medium. Cook for 2 minutes, then add in the tomato paste and cook that out, 3-5 minutes. Add the butter if adding and let the butter emulsify with everything. Once butter has melted, add in the mussels. Turn heat to high, season with salt and black pepper, and add the white wine. Cover with lid, mussels are ready once they open completely, 5-7 minutes. Before you take them out and off the heat, add in most of your chopped parsley and the juice of half a lemon, stir to combine well. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Once in a bowl, add the remaining parsley on top as garnish. Serve with toasted bread. I always eat it with ciabatta. Any bread will suffice, pick your favorite!

Quarantine Paella

~ This is Day 15 ~

It’s almost April!!! The month of March seemed like it took forever to get by. Oh my gosh… What will I do for the entirety of next month???

I’m calling this “quarantine paella” because ingredients are difficult to come by. I try to only go outside to grocery shop when I absolutely need to, i.e. when the fridge is empty. Grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market has all the basic stuff but sometimes the things that I want are out of stock. There are also limits on certain things that you’re allowed to buy. I had hoped to buy 15 lbs of AP flour today but I was only allowed to buy 1 unit, which was 5 lbs. There is no “2-day” prime delivery on Amazon anymore. Everything takes the old regular amount of time (5 business days) or now, even longer to arrive! Jeff Bezos should reimburse us with some Prime membership fees! Totally not going to happen though.

Anyway, with my limited resources and ingredients, I made this paella last night and I’m so glad that I can cook! Thinking about my friends who cannot cook as well as I do… what are they eating? All I want to do is share!! I usually make soffritto ahead of time and just keep a quart in my fridge – it’s good with everything, especially rice! But again, don’t have the excess of ingredients to do things ahead of time. I only put head-on shrimp and bay scallops in this paella, the least variety of sea creatures that I have done in my paella history.

Recipe: Coconut Crab Curry

My favorite restaurant in NYC is still Fish Cheeks, an authentic Thai restaurant that focuses on seafood in NoHo. For the first year in the restaurant, they had a sign that read “A No Pad Thai Zone”. I’m there basically every week. If I’m eating alone, I always start with the grilled pork cheeks (those taste better than bacon by a million times!) and then finish with their coconut crab curry! Other favorites on their menu: zabb wings, tiger prawn/lobster karee, and po tak! They also have happy hour everyday, twice a day, which is #awesomesauce because people who also work in the industry usually work during “normal” happy hour times.

Anyway, six months ago, I stumbled onto Fish Cheeks‘ coconut crab curry recipe on Vice. I immediately bookmarked it and have been trying to get the energy to do it at home. Fall season has hit NYC and my work life has been overwhelmingly exhaustive. I’ve been working 6-7 days a week since Labor Day. Last Saturday, I finally had the time to make curry paste from scratch. I have a new appreciation for what goes into the work of making the curry paste. I wonder how big their mortal & pestle is…? Or maybe Fish Cheeks has an assembly line of cooks making curry paste at the same time?

There were three ingredients that I couldn’t find though; betel leaves, prik ban chang, and shrimp paste. I was told by the Thai grocer that a close substitute to betel leaves were the leaves of Chinese broccoli (gai lan, 芥蓝). Prik, which is chili in Thai, is a red chili pepper that is not spicy but is used to make curries red/orange in color. The Thai market was out of shrimp paste so I bought dried Japanese shrimp from Chinatown.

So here is my adaptation from Vice’s published Fish Cheeks‘ recipe.

For the Curry Paste:

  • ¼ oz. sea salt
  • ¾ oz. dried Thai bird’s eye red chili
  • ½ oz. fresh Thai bird’s eye chili
  • ¼ oz. garlic
  • ½ oz. fresh galangal
  • 1 oz. lemongrass
  • 1 oz. wild ginger
  • ½ oz. fresh turmeric
  • 1 oz. dried shrimp

For the Curry:

  • Two 14 oz. cans of coconut milk
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 oz. fish sauce
  • 1 oz. palm sugar
  • 1 oz. lemongrass
  • 1 oz. tamarind concentrate
  • ½ oz. fresh galangal
  • 4 fresh makrut lime leaves, plus 2 finely chopped as garnish
  • 4 Chinese broccoli leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 8 oz. crab meat

Make the curry paste by mashing everything together with a mortar and pestle. I have a 6-inch one and the volume was perfect. Start with the top listed ingredient and then work your way down. Do not move onto the next ingredient until the previous one has become a paste.

In a medium saucepan over low-medium heat, bring the coconut milk, shallot, fish sauce, palm sugar, lemongrass, tamarind, galangal, 4 makrut lime leaves, Chinese broccoli leaves, and the curry paste to a simmer. Be sure to break the tamarind concentrate thoroughly with a whisk. Stirring constantly to prevent scorching, cook for 15 minutes, then take off heat and let it cool for another 15 minutes. Remove the Chinese broccoli leaves, put everything into a VitaMix and blend until smooth, strain, then discard solids.

Add in the crab and the rest of the finely chopped makrut lime leaves on low heat, until the crab is heated through. Pour into a serving bowl and serve with lots of steamed white rice!

Service: March 29, 2019

Yesterday, I made pork belly steamed buns for family meal! I think it’s my last time planning/cooking family meal for awhile because I am now being rotated to the upstairs Private Events team.

I like to make more complex family meals on Friday/Saturday because that’s when the restaurant’s staff is at its highest and more people can enjoy my food.

I seared the pork bellies the night before and marinated them with the cooled down braising liquid. The day of, everything was brought to a simmer and placed in a 250°F convection oven for 3 hours, then pressed, in order to get nice, cuttable blocks.

I wasn’t able to get a good picture because by the time I realized that I forgot to take the picture, my plate was already half-eaten.

IMG_1300

The pork bellies were served with steamed open buns, rice with Chinese pork sausage, pickled cucumber, sauce made from the braising liquid, and a Napa cabbage coleslaw with miso vinaigrette.

Recipe: Szechuan Chili Paste

I have a feeling this is going to be a long post because I’m about to tell a story.

Growing up, I didn’t eat much spicy food because I didn’t like it. I would loathe if I knew my parents were going to a Szechuan restaurant because then I wouldn’t be able to eat anything except for cold vegetarian dishes and rice. At the time, I also disliked Szechuan food because of the numbing sensation. I would always unluckily bite into a Szechuan peppercorn, which tastes like soap, and still to this day, tastes like soap, and my mouth would go numb, while being on fire too. Needless to say, I was harshly against eating spicy food as a kid.

I didn’t start self-introducing spicy food into my diet until I was in college. I had a seafood soondubu jjigae (Korean seafood tofu stew) late one night and it was so delicious that I moved past the mouth burning sensation and devoured it, along with a lot of rice, since I was a novice.

By the way, chili flakes in Italian food is not considered spicy in my books. Unless, if I ordered the Linguine Misto Mare in Arrabbiata Sauce from Enoteca Vespaio – my favorite restaurant in Austin! I started cooking and experimenting with spicy food at home and moved slowly from there. I was more into Korean spicy flavors than Chinese spicy flavors in college.

It wasn’t until I spent a year and half back in Hong Kong that my addiction for Szechuan food skyrocketed. I was a private preparatory English teacher in Shenzhen and all of my coworkers were from Mainland China and most of them were avid Szechuan foodies. That’s when I started building my super high tolerance to Szechuan chili and peppercorns. We would eat spicy hot pot and Szechuan food almost everyday for lunch. Spicy frog hot pot was a common occurrence as well. I had the best Szechuan food in Shenzhen and it has had an everlasting impression on me. I have been to Szechuan province but that was during my childhood years and I chose to eat McDonald’s there. Hahaha…

So, ever since moving to NYC, just shy of 6.5 years ago, I have been on the quest to find a stellar Szechuan restaurant. I base all restaurants of every cuisine on the authenticity of their signature/classical dishes. And I know, I know, go to Flushing, people say… do you have any idea how far it is to go to Flushing just to eat? Taking the 7 to one of its termini is torture. And the Chinatown bus is just an accident away from happening. No, no, no, I live on Manhattan so there must be somewhere good. If my former colleagues were to ask me if I could find 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) in Manhattan, I would laugh in their faces and say that it is served as a variation here. Fish is not served whole nor chopped into chunks in America because “Americans” do not eat fish with bones. The so-called 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) in all Manhattan restaurants is always served with fish fillets. Hey, I’m not complaining about the fillets because it makes eating easier but I do miss eating the gelatinous parts of the fins.

水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) in China is served with whole fish or chopped whole fish and you can choose the type of fish that you want, whether you want a freshwater or saltwater fish. It is also always served in a basin filled with chili broth, chili oil, and scattered with chili peppers. You cannot find that here, although I have had some really great contenders to the real thing at the following restaurants:

Other great Szechuan restaurants/hot pot places are:

A Flushing import, Szechuan Mountain House, recently opened up shop on St. Mark’s Place and I was not impressed/severely disappointed with their 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil). However, they nailed other really good dishes, such as the Fish with Pickles and Fried Cony with Green Chili Peppers.

Okay, so where does all this tie into my recipe? Since I have been constantly unsuccessful in finding a restaurant that would serve me authentic 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil), I decided to make it at home. This recipe took me FOREVER to get right. It took years of researching and asking all my Szechuan friends (who asked their parents and previous generations for secrets and tips). This recipe results in a paste. You put the paste in a flavorful and seasoned broth to cook whatever protein you prefer but this braising/poaching technique works best with fish and frog, in my opinion. As of today, I have not perfected 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) at home yet. I need to continue with my trials and errors, i.e. what exactly is coated around the fish to make it to smooth and tender?… But I have perfected 水煮牛蛙 (Braised Frog in Chili Oil). I have been eating 水煮牛蛙 (Braised Frog in Chili Oil) for the past three weekends at home!

Feel free to adjust the spiciness level to your preference. Below, my recipe is quite spicy – based on a high tolerance to spice.

Yields 1 quart.

For the wet ingredients:

  • 100 g bird’s eye chili (aka Thai chili, they also come in green but you want all red; approximately 1 loose pint, stems removed)
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 125 g ginger
  • 50 g sand ginger
  • 50 g Chinese fermented black beans
  • 250g Szechuan spicy bean paste

For the dried ingredients:

  • 12 g star anise
  • 40 g Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 g black cardamom
  • 1 g green cardamom
  • 10 g cinnamon sticks
  • 8 g sliced licorice
  • 25 g fennel seeds

Other ingredients:

  • 500 mL Shaoxing wine
  • 40 g brown sugar
  • Grapeseed or neutral oil

Remove all stems from bird’s eye chili peppers. Peel the garlic. Peel the skins off both gingers and cut into pieces, similar in size to that of the garlic cloves. In a food processor, blend all wet ingredients until homogenous.

In a wok, add cooking oil and have heat on medium. Add wet paste, and toss/turn/stir for 10 minutes. Add in Shaoxing wine and brown sugar and incorporate. Then turn heat to medium-low and add in dried ingredients. Toss/turn/stir frequently and cook for 20 minutes.

When paste is cool, place in air-tight containers and into the fridge.

Recipe: Broccoli Rabe Pesto

Classic pesto sauce originated from Genoa, Italy. It consists of a blend of basil, garlic, olive oil, grated hard cheese, and pine nuts. Everyone has their own way of making pesto but it’s generally the same ratio of ingredients.

In the restaurant, I usually make double the following ratios (in the parentheses):

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (1)
  • Walnuts, toasted (½)
  • Pine nuts, toasted (½)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (1)
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (¼)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 boquerones (Spanish white anchovies)
  • 2 garlic cloves, microplaned
  • 1 lemon, microplaned
  • Salt

For the broccoli rabe, wash it well if dirty. Cut off the thick fibrous ends of the vegetable. In a pot of salted boiling water, blanch for 30 seconds and shock in iced water.

Once cool and drained from water, wring the broccoli rabe in a towel or rag to release as much water as possible. On a kitchen scale, measure the weight of the broccoli rabe. It’ll be easier to blend in the food processor if you chop the broccoli rabe first, just a few chops.

In the bowl of the food processor, place the broccoli rabe in first, then the walnuts and pine nuts. Turn the food processor on and add in the EVOO in a steady stream to emulsify the sauce. Add in the freshly grated parmesan, red pepper flakes, boquerones, and microplane the 2 cloves of garlic into the pesto. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt if necessary. Lastly, microplane lemon zest into the pesto and pulse a little more. Add more EVOO to desired consistency.

You can freeze the pesto if you aren’t going to use all of it within a few days because it will oxidize – taste the same but just look ugly.

Sample dishes:

Recipe: Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde just means Green Sauce; it is uncooked and usually based on herbs (Italian, Spanish, French, German, Argentinian), however, Mexican salsa verde is based on tomatillos.

We make a very simple salsa verde in the restaurant. It’s vegan, there’s no anchovies at all.

  • 1 pint parsley leaves, packed tightly
  • Equal part grapeseed oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Pinch of salt

In a VitaMix, blend all ingredients on high for three seconds. Store in air-tight container and place in fridge.

Sample dishes:

Recipe: Anise Jus

I get asked this question a lot, is “star anise” pronounced as “ah-niece” or “ah-nus”? According to the dictionary, the correct pronunciation is the one that sounds like anus… which is why most people prefer to pronounce it as “ah-niece”.

To make anise jus, it is almost identical to Recipe: Red Wine Jus except, remove the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves and add a handful of star anise.

  • 6 duck carcasses
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 TBS black peppercorns
  • Handful star anise
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 bottles red wine

Method is exactly the same; add star anise with black peppercorns.

Sample dishes:

Recipe: Red Wine Jus

Red Wine Jus is a meat sauce that is made with reduced red wine and reduced meat stock. I prefer using duck bones instead of the usual veal bones because duck bones are more flavorful and not overpowering. And also, I’m allergic to cow.

  • 6 duck carcasses
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 TBS black peppercorns
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 bottles red wine

For the duck carcasses, add in the neck and wings too if you don’t plan on using them for other purposes. Try to trim off as much fat as possible. Roast duck carcasses with some olive oil and salt in an oven at 450°F until nice and brown. In a large stock pot, add browned bones and fill water to cover. Bring to a boil, and simmer until reduced by half.

Remove bones and continue to reduce in a clean pot until gelatinous. On average, 6 carcasses will give you 1.5-2 quarts of gelatinous reduced stock.

Peel the onions and carrots and chop into 1-inch pieces. Cut celery stalks into the same length pieces. In a clean stock pot, heat up some neutral oil and sweat the onions, carrots, and celery. Stir, once soft, add garlic, peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves until aromatic. Add in red wine vinegar and continue stirring.

Cook until almost dry and add in the two bottles of red wine. I prefer using deeper, drier red wines with hints of berries. Reduce until almost syrupy.

Strain red wine syrup into a clean pot, discard solids, and add in 1 cup of gelatinous reduced meat stock.

The jus should have some body to it and taste slightly acidic from the red wine. If you want more body to the jus, continue to reduce meat stock, or add some butter. Usually, you don’t need any salt but always taste to double-check.

Sample dishes:

Recipe: Romescada

Romescada is a rustic seafood stew from Catalan, Spain. Romescada and Romesco sauce are very similar, in ingredients, but differ in method. Romesco sauce is typically pounded together (or whirled in a food processor or blended in a blender), and olive oil is added until the mixture resembles a reddish mayonnaise. However, Romescada is made with adding the individual ingredients one by one, creating a more in depth flavor profile.

What to add to Romescada is endless. Traditionally, the stew has monkfish or any other firm-fleshed white fish, such as sea bass, and any type of shellfish, bivalve, or cephalopod.

I make Romescada with the unreduced lobster stock from Sauce Américaine. That’s super flavorful. Also, I use sourdough for my bread slices.

  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 1 cup peeled hazelnuts
  • 4 slices bread, crusts removed
  • 2 medium Spanish onions, finely chopped
  • 4 dried Ñora chiles or 2 dried Ancho chiles
  • 2 fresh Fresno peppers, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 12 canned Piquillo peppers, chopped, more if needed
  • 2 tsp Pimentón Dulce (sweet paprika)
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 quarts lobster stock/Sauce Américaine, more if needed
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roast nuts and discard any skins. Then boil them for 15 minutes so that they are easy to blend.

In a large stockpot, add olive oil to depth of ¼-inch, fry 4 bread slices slowly on both sides until crisp and golden. Remove bread, drain on paper towel, cut into ½-inch cubes, and set aside. Add chopped onions to pot, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook until onion is softened and lightly colored, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat while you do the next step.

Put dried Ñora/Ancho chilis in a small pot with water, simmer for 15 minutes, drain, and discard water. Remove stems and seeds.

Put roasted nuts, fried bread, garlic, chilis, Fresno, piquillo, and paprika in a food processor. Blend until it comes to a thick paste, adding more piquillo peppers if necessary to make it catch.

Add mixture from food processor to softened onions and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and wine, simmer until mixture has dried out a bit. Add 2 quarts of lobster broth, simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If too thick, add more stock.

Sample dishes: