Snacks

POTATO LATKE WAFFLE FRIES

THE PERFECT HOMEMADE FRENCH FRIES ARE, ACTUALLY, NOT FRENCH FRIES.  NOT ANYMORE.

As a “foodie”, for a lack of better words, I hereby acknowledge and accept all ramifications of these following confessions:

Despite the inexcusable amount of opportunity and close proximity in the past couple decades, I have never, until last Wednesday, had a Shake Shack burger.

That is correct.  Never wanted one.  Never needed one.  I suppose as a food-blogger who’s supposed to know these things, that oozes the same level of non-credibility as a cityscape Instagrammer who hasn’t been hit by a car  — judgements ensue.  But what can I say, because to me, burgers are like children.  Despite the high hopes and dreams every time you wanted one, let’s be honest, most of them turn out to be a disappointing investment with negative returns.  So as a general rule of thumb, I avoid both equally at all costs.  Having said that, I have to admit that my first Shackburger experience — an honest portrayal of a classic cheese burger yet of high caliber — was undeniably satisfying.  But blah blah, who cares, because today’s subject has absolutely nothing to do with burgers.

Instead, it has more to do with Shake Shack’s equally famed crinkled fries.  And how it has nothing but also everything to do deep-fried potato latke waffles.

For the most part, I pride myself as a purist, almost as much as my other less honorable characteristics.  When it comes it fries, it is no different.  I contest the practice of wedge fries, shoestring fries, curly fries, spiral fries, or anything that deviates from the textbook-standard straight-cut 1/4″ thick eternal classic for that matter, is immediately frowned upon.  As much as I would like to say that Shake Shack’s crinkled fries had changed my mind, it did no such thing.  But what it did, in common with all the other attempted contestants, was that it brought an important subject into the considerations for a fantasy French fries — maximized surface area.

In all fairness, each of these criminal deformations done to an innocent straight-cut French fries, were all good intentions to increase the surface area in contact with the frying oil in order to bring more crispiness to their overall performances.  They mean well.  They really did.  Except that in most cases (curly fries, wedge fries and most waffle fries in particular), it has achieved the exact opposite.  Shake Shack’s crinkle fries had came close but unfortunately not close enough to this ideal, still held back by its excessive girth and fast food chain-standard paleness (In fact, the company’s 2013 correct ambition to revamp their fries succumbed to the demands of blindly nostalgic customers, an example where democracy fails).  But its admirable failure had left me fantasizing a perfect world where uneven and warped surfaces could, perhaps, achieve the same level of crunch and crispiness as well-made staight-cut fries.  While it certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea, so far, it remained a theoretical hypothesis like Matt Damon on Mars.

Well, that was until Freedman’s potato latke showed up on this Month’s Bon Appetit.

It was a crispy potato enthusiast’s wet dream, where the maximal amount of surface area that could exist inside a 7″ wide and 1″ thick disk is transformed into a sharp, fracturable and golden browned starch-suit, where geometry meets food porn.

Impressive no doubt, but upon my first trial to test the reality of such dream, I immediately realized that its true genius lies not only in its final magnificence, but in how its process has successfully eliminated the No. 1 enemy of making anything that resembles French fries at home.  The despicable requirement of multiple blanching and re-frying.  Anyone who has attempted to create French fries from scratch at home understands deeply both the heinousness as well as the necessity of such process, which removes enough starch and moisture from the potatoes during its first soaking and second blanching so that the ultimate crispiness can be achieved in the final high-heat frying.  It’s a process that, some insist, could take more than a day…

…where potato latke waffle, does not.

All the stunning amount of liquid inside the potato is easily extracted in the shredding step, from then it further evaporates during the brief toasting inside the waffle iron where the potatoes cook and set in shape.  Roughly in a well-spent 20 minutes, the waffle becomes a homogenous body of soft and creamy potatoes held together by their own starchy content and lightly browned hems, which I’d like to point out can be kept inside the freezer on call, en route for greatness.  Inside a shallow pool of hot grease, the granular makeup of the cooked potato disbands subtly around the edges, creating jagged hot spots of glorious crispiness in the same manner throughout the rest of its geometric surfaces, underneath which, the creamy and molten potatoes are captured and sealed, awaiting for the liberation of an audible fracture.  Crispy.  Potato-y.  Incredibly.

With too much respect to this culinary enlightenment, I am almost reluctant to call it a potato latke as it originally intended, or waffle fries as it literally is.  I am almost insistent to say that it is the perfect homemade French fries, when the perfect homemade French fries are, actually, not French fries.  Not anymore.

But in the very moment when I paired them with smoked trout that was still cold to the touch as they do in Freedman’s, and smeared a barbaric stroke of whipped butter and creme fraiche to its zigzag surface as they totally should too, I immediately lost the need to differentiate.  It works undeniably as a perfect potato latke; it works brilliantly as fries.  When something works so sublimely outside the box, throw away the box.

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JALAPENO POPPER DUMPLINGS W/ PICKLING JUICE DIPPING SAUCE

ONE DOES NOT TELL YOU THAT WHEN PICKLED JALAPENO AND CHEDDAR CHEESE ARE IN THE COMPANY OF GROUND PORK, DELIVERED IN CAPSULE-FORM, THEN FURTHER DIPPED INTO A REDUCTION OF ITS OWN PICKLING JUICE, THE COMBO CAN BE BORN ANEW.

My speculation into a jalapeño popper dumpling began many years ago.  It was first brought into light by a specimen from my brother-in-law, who gave us two dozens of online-ordered frozen dumplings which, I was told, had become somewhat of a local internet sensation at the time.  The entire makeup of the dumpling was very well-balanced, a perfect ratio between silky and chewy wrapper, not too thin, not too thick, and a fully-housed filling of pork, chopped Taiwanese-style peeled and pickled chili, cilantro, plus some other secret stuffs that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  It was unexpected, well-flavored, totally legit.

I have since then, for a handful of times, attempted to replicate that particular dumpling outside of Taiwan where Taiwanese-style peeled and pickled chili aren’t always a common item, and had found such task to be extremely impractical at best.  First of all, Taiwanese-style peeled and pickled chilis are, even when available, highly inconsistent in quality between various brands, ranging from awesomely crunchy and peppery with a tinge of sweetness, to barbarically over-sweetened, flaccid and tasteless.  Then what complicated the matter even further was that every attempts to replace it with another type of pickled chilis, had resulted in a flavor profile that was completely unrecognizable.  In some work, documentary for example, there are certain values in writing recipes involving ingredients that are highly specific and exclusive, necessary even.  This, I decided, isn’t one of’em.

I decided that the idea of a dumpling involving a delicious pickled chili, one that is available and reliable nonetheless, could only be realized from a perspective ungoverned by its original inspiration.  Which brings us to, jalapeño popper dumpling.

I made a jadeite-green wrappers colored by green scallion puree, sturdy yet soft, smooth yet chewy, a proper capsule for a filling that is fully specked with spicy and peppery chopped pickled jalapeño and cubes of sharp cheddar cheese, each occupying tiny gooey pockets throughout a fatty pork filling that is brightened with fresh cilantro.  The compatibility between pickled jalapeño and cheddar cheese requires no dispute, but one does not tell you that when they’re in the company of ground pork, delivered in capsule-form, then further dipped into a spicy, briny and tangy reduction of its own pickling juice, this classic combo can be born anew.

Sometimes the destination isn’t where the starting point had intended.  And often times that pisses me off.  In this case, I am not.

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FISH WONTON W/ ANCHOVY, GARLIC , TABASCO

 

HOW DARE YOU.  I’M SUPPOSED TO HAVE TASTE-BUDS OF HIGH CALIBER

As we are preparing for our Tuscany vacation that is fast approaching this Saturday, I’m going to quickly leave you with an even faster recipe.

I threw this together in less than an hour today, in a frantic effort to clean out the freezer (duh, to make way for the incoming fleet of smuggled imported Italian goods), and they turned out to be little drops of afternoon delights.  So why fish wonton?  Why fish?  See, I don’t know about you, but when other people stock up their freezer with prime rib-eye steaks from Cosco, I do mine with frozen catfish fillets.  I don’t know why.  Cheapness, possibly.  Don’t make me admit that I like frozen catfish.  I’m supposed to have taste-buds of high caliber.  How dare you.  No, the point is, I was saying… as I was cleaning out my frozen fish tank, I thought, fish wonton, why not?

Ground fish, here in Asia, is actually quite a common ingredient with wide applications.  What it lacks in meaty-ness, it gains in an uniquely light, soft and creamy texture which resembles between ricotta filling and French quenelles.  It makes a wonton that is light in body and texture, with a particular sweetness in its gentle nature.  To dress it up, I used a deeply savory olive oil with salty specks of anchovies and crispy garlic, brightened with fresh grated ginger, chopped herbs and a subtle zing of tabasco sauce.

Satisfying afternoon pick-me-ups, or, if kept ready in the freezer, light and well.. relatively healthy meal on demand.

 
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DIM SUM MONTH FINALE: Tapenade short ribs, plus dim sum party game plan

AT LAST, DIM SUM MONTH FINALE…

WHAT:  Beef short ribs in super garlicky tapenade sauce, an adaptation of a classic dimsum item – pork ribs with fermented black beans but with an American/European twist.

WHY:  The unexpectedly supple texture of the beef (thanks to baking soda) melting gorgeously into a pool of bold and complex mixture of flavors, a revelation that can be easily prepared ahead of time and cooks in under 8 min.

HOW:  For both flavors and accessibility, I have swapped the traditionally used diced pork ribs with the more luscious and rich-tasting beef short ribs, and Chinese fermented black beans with the equally bold and forward black olives.  Trust me, if I may say so myself, the reinvented combination works even better than tradition.  The surprisingly tender and velvety texture of the beef – achieved by adding just a tiny pinch of baking soda into the marinate – disintegrates in your mouth in a medley of perfectly orchestrated flavours that you didn’t even know would go together.  Black olives, strawberry jam, soy sauce, sesame oil, Dijon mustard, and a depth created by using both raw and fried garlics.  It’s easy to put together, and a cinch to cook in a blink of an eye.  You’ll wonder where it’s been your whole life.

Now, simply follow the instructions below on how to throw a hassle-free dim sum party!

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DIM SUM MONTH: GLASS DUMPLINGS W/ MUSHROOMS AND SMOKED GOUDA CHEESE

DIM SUM MONTH STILL CONTINUES…

OK, I know it’s not February anymore, but there’s still a couple more dim sum I want to share so DIM SUM MONTH is oozing into March a bit…

WHAT:  Glass-like translucent dumplings stuffed with caramelized mushrooms and a soft-hearted center of smoked gouda cheese, all in a beautiful tear-drop shape.

WHY:  Because the only tears you’re gonna cry are happy ones when you try this.

HOW:  This wrapper is actually my favorite not only because it’s so beautiful, but it actually freezes well, or should I say better than the more common and popular crystal shrimp dumplings.  It has a pleasantly bouncy and chewy mouth-feel, and it gives the audience a preview to whatever fillings you put inside!  In this case, we’re doing deeply oven-caramelized mushrooms that are bound together by a bit of ground pork and parmigiano-regiano cheese (and a hint of truffle oil if you can splurge), creating an earthy, warm and aromatic cradle that rocks a soft and temperate center of smoked gouda cheese.  Nothing is going to shout “funk!” in this flavor-profile here, only modest but confident display of a well-tolerated harmony.  The only accessory it likes is a brightening dab of heat from this chili sambal romesco sauce.  But the sky’s the limit here.  How about grassy colored spinach filling with a stronger punch of blue cheese, or sweet and red-cheeked carrots or beets and funky goat’s cheese?  Dream wild.

* I believe that the next post will be the final chapter of dim sum month, and I’m going to list out a complete game-plan on what, how and when to prepare certain items ahead of time, and throwing then all together at our virtual dim sum party :)

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DIM SUM MONTH: Turnip cake fritters w/ prosciutto

DIM SUM MONTH CONTINUES…

WHAT:  A very logical and long-overdue twist on the classic and quintessential dim sum – turnip/radish cake, in bite-size fritter form.

WHY:  For far too long have we allowed ourselves to be complacent with “tradition”, in this particular case, boring and bland squares of steamed rice cakes barely containing any turnips that draw all of its flavors and appeals from the XO sauce that is piled on top.  I mean think about it.  Without the XO sauce, who the fuck is turnip cake?  Even the slight attraction from its crispy pan-fried edges is more often missing than not.  But turnip cake deserves more than XO sauce, if we just take a moment to let the star – turnips! – shine through.

HOW:  An almost 50:50 ratio of finely diced Chinese turnips (or called daikon in Japanese) to batter, yields a supple and succulent texture in these little babies, almost juicy if you will.  Yes, juicy, which is not a word you hear often when it comes to turnip cakes, but it should.  Each tiny dices of blanched turnips burst out in natural sweetness within every bite, in perfect juxtaposition to the stickier batter that holds them all together and the incredibly crispy jacket that it wears.  Yes, crispiness, which brings us to my next point.  For all sakes, I don’t understand the way this dish was traditionally done, which was steamed into a big rectangular block, cut into slices, then pan-fried for that half-assed, pathetic excuse of a “crust” that doesn’t exist.  All along, it should’ve been in fritter-form!  360 degrees of heat and awesomeness that transforms that batter into blistered and satisfying crunch.  With turnip cake this good, we don’t need other distractions but a subtle ribbon of prosciutto on top.

*Yellow mixing bowl from Dishes Only.

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DIM SUM MONTH: Creamy salmon & egg in rice wrapper rolls

DIM SUM MONTH CONTINUES…

WHAT:  Stuffed rice wrapper rolls they call “cheung fun“!

WHY:  These gorgeous and elegant beauties are often overlooked on the dim sum table because of their less flashy appearances, mellow flavor profiles, and batters with the wrong ratio that results in unfortunate, mushy-textured wrappers.  Well, that ain’t their fault, in fact, cheung-fun is the most versatile blank canvas waiting for someone who appreciates its possibilities.

HOW:  In restaurants, this dish is always made to order.  The rice batter is usually steamed with the filling on top then rolled into a log and served with sweet soy sauce.  This method has its virtues but also, many flaws.  It is convenient from a restaurant’s perspective, allowing them to serve the dish hot and speedy, but not necessarily so from a creative point of view.  Making the dish to order will be unrealistic to pull off for at-home dinner parties, and steaming the wrappers and the fillings simultaneously will greatly limits its possibilities.  So, we are going to prepare the rice wrappers beforehand, and assemble them with the filling at the last minute.  In my wildest dreams where money flows like abs in a Channing Tatum movie, I would make the filling with gently poached lobster meat and XL lumpy blue crabs tossed together with herby mayonnaise and a few popping jewels of ikura (Japanese cured salmon roes).  But I live in the real world.  As you can see that my XXL Magic Mike-version is reduced down to slow baked then torched salmon with cheap-but-not-sad 15-seconds magic scrambled eggs.  Still Magic, just less Mike.  Serve the dish on a hot plate and simmering sweet soy sauce to bring the warmth back.  Hey, still fucking sexy.

By the way, most of the recipes in DIM SUM MONTH is designed to be prepared ahead of time.  Make each items and store them in the freezer (well, not this particular recipe), and at the end of the month, we’re going to have a dim sum blowout party.  See ya!

CREAMY SALMON & EGG IN RICE WRAPPER ROLLS

Yield: Approx 8~10 rolls

For the RICE WRAPPER recipe, I strongly recommend measuring by weight (not volume).

Ingredients

    RICE WRAPPER/CHEUNG FUN:
  • 3/4 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp (100 grams) short grain rice flour
  • 1/4 cup (33 grams) potato starch
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp (267 grams) water
  • FILLING: (see note)
  • 1 lb (500 grams) mid-cut salmon
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp finely diced scallions
  • 1 tbsp plain mayonnaise
  • 1 portion 15-seconds magic scrambled eggs (3 eggs)
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • SWEET SOY SAUCE:
  • 1/3 cup (94 grams) soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp (31 grams) light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) water

Instructions

  1. This instruction differs from how restaurants typically do it, which is to always steam the cheung-fun/rice wrapper and the fillings together simultaneously, right before serving. Here, I prepare the cheung-fun/rice wrapper separately and beforehand. It gives me more control to play with the fillings, and makes them easier to prepare for a party.
  2. PREPARE THE CHEUNG-FUN/RICE WRAPPER: Make the wrappers up to 4 hours before serving. Check out RICE RIBBON for more referrences. In a jar that's easy to pour, whisk together rice flour, potato starch and water.
  3. For steamer, you can use any large pot with a rack placed in the middle to hold the mold/pan. I used a 6" (15 cm) square cake-pan as my mold to make the rice wrapper because 1) It fits into my steamer/pot (see photo). 2) It's just the right size for one single roll. If you have a larger steamer that can allow a bigger pan that will cut down the number of time of steaming, you can do that as well.
  4. Fill the steamer/pot with enough water just below the steamer-rack, then bring to a boil over high heat. Brush the pan with a bit of canola oil and place it on top of the rack. Give the batter a little whisk (do this every time before you pour), then pour just enough batter to create a thin film on the bottom of the pan. ADJUST THE POT so that it's LEVELED, and that the batter is evenly thick on all sides. Close the lid and steam on high heat for 1 min. The wrapper is ready when you see large air bubbles when you remove the lid. Brush the top surface of the wrapper with a little canola oil, then tilt the pan over a piece of parchment paper so it faces downward, then scrape the wrapper off so it falls onto the parchment. Repeat until you've used up all the batters, and keep each wrappers sandwiched between parchments. Plastic-wrap the whole stack and set aside until needed.
  5. PREPARE FILLING: Two hours before serving. Preheat the oven on 155 F/70 C. Rub the 1 tbsp of salt all over the salmon and let sit for 20 min, after which, rinse and pat dry with a clean towel. Place on a piece of parchment paper and rub the salmon with a bit of olive oil, then wrap tightly with the parchment. Place in the middle baking-rack (NO BAKING SHEET) and bake for 1:20 hour. Crumble the salmon into large pieces, and if you have a blow-torch, torch the surfaces so they're a bit charred. Gently toss the salmon with scallions and mayo (do the same if you're using lobster or lumpy crab meats). Set aside. Make the magic scrambled eggs. Set aside.
  6. Lay one cheung-fun/rice wrapper with the oiled side down (that would be the top surface when it came out of the steamer, which is the pretty side). Scatter a few cilantro leaves across the middle, then a bit of salmon fillings and scrambled eggs. Gently roll it together, and repeat (only make as many as you're serving).
  7. Place the rolls on a hot plate (the dish should be warm when served). In a small pot, bring soy sauce, light brown sugar and water to a simmer until the sugar has melted, then spoon the sauce over the rice rolls. Serve immediately.

Notes

If your budget allows, you can switch to using lobster or large lumpy crab meats, or a combination of the two. I would gently poach the lobster, then cut the meat into small pieces. Toss the lobster meats together with lobster roes (or the "brain"), lumpy crab meats and the scallion mayo. If you have enough of this, you can even omit the scrambled eggs and go delux.

http://ladyandpups.com/2017/02/14/dim-sum-month-creamy-salmon-egg-in-rice-wrapper-rolls/
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DIM SUM MONTH: CHARSIU PULL-APART PINEAPPLE BUN

DIM SUM MONTH CONTINUES…

WHAT:  The new poster child of dim sum-scape in Hong Kong, the char siu pineapple buns, pull-apart style!

WHY:  Do you need to reason to eat a soft, squishy bun stuffed with sweet char siu pork and topped with crunchy “pineapple” crusts?  The entirety of happiness all in one bite, pillowy, crunchy, salty, sweet, gooey, porky and buttery?  Do ya?

HOW:  Burn all the other recipes that are dumbed down and one-dimensional.  Here’s a thorough recipe to show you how to make them like a pro, either with fresh pork shoulders (my preference), or with store-bought char siu pork.  But what really makes this recipe different is how the delicate balance of flavors are re-imagined.  Instead of the typical, cornstarch-thickened sauce that screams boring, we are going to re-create the stickiness by mixing in honey, ground dates and dried strawberries.  Not only do they provide a natural gooey-ness, they also bring a hidden fruity tone to the flavor-profile, making these sweet and salty buns unstoppably addictive.

By the way, most of the recipes in DIM SUM MONTH is designed to be prepared ahead of time.  Make each items and store them in the freezer, and at the end of the month, we’re going to have a dim sum blowout party.  See ya!

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