Friday, September 18, 2009

Round Challah for Rosh Hashana - aka Victory Dance

It's traditional to bake round Challah for Rosh Hashana. I mentioned to Do this morning that I was just going to bake a normal round loaf, but he (knowing the best way to get exactly what he wants) went off on a long shtick about how much he loves my Challah, and how the braiding gives it this perfect texture, without the braiding it just wouldn't be the same, yadda yadda. On top of it, I haven't baked Challah for almost a year, so he's been deprived, yadda yadda.

So I give you *drumroll* braided round Challah. The things one does for a loved one. Before a dinner party, no less.

How fucking awesome does that bread look???? I can't wait to see his face when he comes home!

Braiding Instructions are here: The challah recipe is in this blog's files.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

30min Thai Chicken Curry

Last weekend Do and I undertook the pruning of our recipe clippings collection. Our stash was pretty typical: ~50 recipes at any one time waiting to be tested, sorted into self explanatory categories like "veggies" or "chicken" or "deserts." It had simply become unwieldy and uninspiring, with clippings for recipes that may have been inspiring two years ago but no longer. So we culled and reorganized... and in the process re-discovered some very exciting dishes, like the 30min Thai curry pictured at right.

If I remember correctly, this recipe was part of an article on weeknight chef-worthy meals, published in the May 2007 issue of Food & Wine (when we were still in college -eep!). The 30minutes is overly optimistic, unless you either a) buy chicken that is very quick to prep (i.e. boneless or pre-cubed), b) recruit your favorite kitchen buddy to help, or c) all of the above. Do thinks that the sauce could stand to be reduced a little further to be a little thicker, but that's a common criticism of his. He's really happiest when everything is stew-like.

And those are really our only criticisms. It's a fast but solidly-flavored south-east Asian curry, using only commonly-available ingredients. As in, you don't have to have access to Bay-area grocery stores or be feeling particularly adventurous to enjoy this -- m... (Do quietly covers Neens mouth before she says something unforgivable). Vegetarians should have no problem substituting a firm tofu for chicken. Oh, and as we discovered, this is one of those dishes that does just fine with less-than-stellar chicken (ours had been cheap to start with and then languished unloved in the freezer for, er, a long time. Tasted great in this recipe). Definitely moving this clipping to the permanent collection.

Spicy Red Curry Chicken (Food & Wine May 2007 issue).

2/3 c unsweetened coconut milk (~half a can)
2 -3 tsp Thai red curry paste (Do: Korean Red Pepper paste is a fine substitute. Siracha Chili paste is not flavorful enough, use it just to add extra spice.)
1 Tbs Asian Fish sauce
3 Tbs vegetable oil, separated
1 1/2 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs and/or breasts, cut into 1/2" strips or 1 1/2" chunks
1/2 lb shitake mushrooms, quartered
1 Tbs grated ginger
2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen baby peas
For serving (all optional): rice, peanuts, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges

Do the prep: cut up chicken, clean and chop mushrooms. Start making rice, if you plan to serve the curry over rice.

Shake the can of coconut milk before opening. In a small bowl, whisk the 2/3 cup of coconut milk with the red curry paste and the fish sauce until combined. Set aside.

Heat a large wok or skillet until very hot. Add 2 Tbs vegetable oil and heat until just smoking. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and add it to the wok in a single layer. Cook over high heat, turning once, until the chicken is browned but not cooked through (~4-5min). Transfer the chicken to a plate and pour off the fat in the wok.

Add the remaining 1 Tbs vegetable oil to the wok. Add shitake caps and stir fry ovr high heat until lightly browned (~5 min). Add ginger and garlic, and saute for 1 min. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the wok. Add the red curry mixture and the 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Add the frozen peas and simmer until the liquid is slightly reduced and the peas are warm (~2-3min).

To serve: transfer the chicken curry to a serving bowl and garnish with peanuts and cilantro. Serve immediately with rice and lime wedges.

And I couldn't resist: when we were putting together our menus for this upcoming week, the more mischievous of our two cats, Harissa, somehow wedged himself into the empty spot in our cookbook bookshelf. Yeah Reesie, you almost look like Julia Child. Keep working on it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

[Trying to make] Brik. Or, why Julie Powell is dangerous.

[Continuing to explore Tunisian cuisine through Tessa Mallos' North African Cooking cookbook...]

I had to leave the kitchen. I put down my implements, left the hot deep-frying oil, marched into the bathroom, and dissolved into tears. Actually, I just crumpled and the wails erupted on their on. Have you read Julie and Julia? It was much more Julie Powell than Amy Adams, complete with irrational declarations that, clearly, the universe was over. Obvi. (Image from

I had tried to make Brik. I had failed. The wrappers were brittle and were breaking, they weren't sealing around the filling, the egg yolks were bursting, the oil wasn't hot enough so the result was soggy, oily, egg-y, mess. Every single fire alarm in our apartment went off during the first minute and a half of my endeavor. Boiling oil splattered all over the clean stovetop, my clothes, my bare arms, everything. It was a DISASTER.

In one of Do's few memories of his great-grandmother, he was thirteen and visiting extended family in Paris, and his Tunisian great-grandmother made him brik. He still recounts the event with wonder and adoration. Brik are, essentially, deep-fried dough pockets filled with raw egg and a salty filling. The recipe in North African Cooking calls for anchovies and capers. About a teaspoon of the filling and a small raw egg get dumped into the center of a wonton wrapper (actual Brik dough is super time-consuming to make, my used-to-live-in-Algeria Mom informs me), the wonton wrapper seals around the filling, and the whole thing gets deep fried until barely crispy. As Do puts it: "It's salty, deep fat fried egg. What's not to like?" (The photo above is clearly not my creation. It was taken by Sheryl of the Crispy Waffle blog during her vacation in Tunisia, and can be found here.)

Fiasco. Bawling in the bathroom.

::Do Grabs The Talkie Stick ::

So, anyone that lives with a foodie knows all about managing explosions in the kitchen. I have generated a little check-list for myself.
After hearing loud shrieking/sobbing from Neen while she is cooking:
1. Check to make sure all limbs are attached. [If no - proceed to emergency first aid routine]
2. Remove any fire hazards from heat. (If something might overcook - remove that from heat too.)
3. Attend to Neen.

There were no missing limbs in this situation, but there was a fire hazards - so I turned the heat off on the oil before proceeding back to the bathroom to find out what was eating Neen. Now, it is worth mentioning that this is a VERY hard recipe, and I had known it from the start. I had tried unsuccessfully to convince her of this. So when Neen felt like she just couldn't make it work, the resulting meltdown was not completely unexpected.

[Neen: insertion] Actually, Do was trying very hard not to giggle. We had just seen Julie & Julia that afternoon, so the over-the-top explosion was just too stereotypical for words. Of course, his trying to suppress his smirk made me giggle... which was naturally followed by an especially loud wail to prove I was serious. [/Neen insertion]

Thankfully the solution to my portion of this problem was VERY easy - I just had her take bite out of one of the "failed" Brik she had just made. Fabulous - melt in in your mouth, salty, and rich. Everything Brik should be. So they weren't picture perfect, so what? Some of the wrappers didn't shut, but upon returning to the kitchen we realized that (of course) you are supposed to soak the wonton wrappers in water before using them - the recipe hadn't of course mentioned that! Once we corrected for this issue, we actually turned out some impressive-looking ones.

The happy ending to this story was a delicious meal of brik and white wine, set to candlelight. Perfection.

Neen: Yeah. Still not happening again any time soon. I'll wait to get hands-on instruction from the experts the next time we visit Do's family in Paris.

Brik bil Ancouwa (Brik with Anchovies)
a package of large spring roll wrappers
1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbs fniely chopped canned anchovies
2 Tbs chopped parsely
3 tsp capers, drained
oil for frying
Small fresh eggs (Neen: this is critical)

Heat olive in oil in a small frying pan. Add onion and cook gently until very soft and translucent (~12-15min), stirring often. Add anchovies and mash in. Remove pan from heat, stir in parsely, capers, and add pepper to taste. Let cool.

Separate spring roll wrappers and soak ~5 or 6 in a bowl with cold water, to soften them. Add oil for shallow=-frying to a depth of 1/4" in a 10" frying pan and heat well. Open all the windows in your kitchen. Turn on air vent. Prepare your partner/brother/sister/child to handle the fire alarms if/when they go off.

Place one soft wrapped on a plate. Add ~1 Tbs anchovy filling in a heap on one side,with the edge of the filling just touching center. Make an indent in the filling and break one egg into it. Fold the wrapper over to enclose the filling and press the edges to seal. Try not to break the egg yolk, but if you do it's okay.

Slide brik immediately into the hot oil and shallow fry until golden brown and crisp, about 45 seconds on each side. Lift out and drain on paper towles. Repeat with remaining brik/filling. Serve immediately.