Noodle/Pasta/Rice

PEPPERONI MEATBALLS SPAGHETTI

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EACH MEATBALLS CONTAIN… A TON OF AGE-FORTIFIED FAT-BITS AND TIME-CONSUMING FLAVOURS

Last night, as I unleashed the freezer-section dumplings onto my most festive-looking plate, as part of our mostly-take-out Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner that didn’t even get bothered to be removed from its cleanup-friendly plastic-wares, and watched the annual city-wide shelling of fireworks carried out by every other citizens across the Beijing sky… I realized something.

I am a lousy… lousy… content curator.

There’s… something wrong with this picture.  Now is supposed to be the high-season for binge eating for most Asians, rivalling Thanksgiving in its contribution to glorified gluttony, a perfect cue for an Asian food-blogger such as myself, to abuse recipes like… banquet-style fried whole fish drenched in thickened sauce, or glistening red-braised pork ham-shank the size of my own thighs, or… or, at the very least, too much batter-fried sticky rice cake to regret over in the very next morning.  But instead, I’m here talking to you about something as generic as… meatball spaghetti.

Well, I blame it on this.  A 2 feet long monstrosity which I believe they call, who-the-hell-buys-a-whole-freaking-stick-of pepperoni, stretching its long leg into every last inch of leg-room inside my economy-class refrigerator for the past 2 weeks.   It was a generous remnant from a lunch gathering and ever since, I’ve been struggling to put it to a just rest.  On pizzas… in between sandwiches… blended into my Olay’s night cream.  Then just when I was about one-lost-chapstick-away from rubbing it on my lips for good use, I was reminded of an old trick.

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It was a never-failing method, inspired by an epic dinner spent in Lupa in the West Village of New York many years ago, a genius method to inject the kind of flavours only old age can produce, by blending dry-cured meat products into fresh food preparation.  The very same method, using trimmed prosciutto fats, landed me on the most insanely flavourful meatballs braised in white wine that I’ve ever tasted.  And I thought if it already looked hot in white, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t look even sexier in red, right?

So here, amidst the Chinese festivity of lunar New Year, comes the Italian pepperoni meatball spaghetti braised in a red wine tomato sauce.  May not be the most promptly cued entrance, but each meatballs contain not only the usual suspects of mixed ground meats, breadcrumbs, grated parmigiano cheese, herbs and whatnots, but also a ton of minced pepperoni sausage with all its age-glorified fat-bits and time-consuming flavours.

There’s a complexity that only exists inside the cultivated molecules being farted out by a workforce of happy bacterias over a long period of occupancy, which is completely welded into the meatballs just after a relatively short period of braising.  The fats get partially absorbed by the breadcrumbs within the meatballs as well as partially rendered into the sauce, deepened by just the right amount of red wine then heightened with a good dab of Dijon mustard at the end.  It’s just not your regular, daddy’s Prego meatball spaghetti.  It’s a time-fortified, age-defined, pepped-up meatball spaghetti that, consider yourself warned,  might just be mean enough to hurt your grandmother’s ego.

So excuse me if I didn’t mention rice cake.  Pardon my neglect for a CNY feast.  Today, I’m afraid is just gonna be meatball spaghetti…

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PEPERONI MEATBALLS SPAGHETTI

Serving Size: 4~6 ppl

Ingredients

    THE MEATBALLS:
  • 1 cup diced (150 grams) pepperoni sausage
  • 1/4 cup (1 small handful) parsley leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 medium-size onion, cut into chunks
  • 400 grams ground beef
  • 280 grams ground pork
  • 3/4 cup (50 grams) Japanese panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) grated parmigiano cheese
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • THE SAUCE:
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small celery stalk, finely diced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1200 grams (three 400 grams cans) peeled Italian tomatoes, pureed in a blender
  • 3" parmigiano cheese rind
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Chopped parsley leaves

Instructions

  1. TO MAKE THE MEATBALLS: Preheat the oven top-broiler on high. Run diced pepperoni, parsley leaves, garlics and onion in a food-processor until they resemble chunky, coarse meals. Transfer to a bowl along with ground beef, ground pork, panko breadcrumbs, grated parmigiano cheese, ground cayenne, crushed fennel seeds, ground paprika, salt and black pepper. Gently mix just until even, then shape the mixture into 8 tightly packed meatballs and place on a parchment-lined baking-sheet. Place in the middle-rack in the oven and toast until golden browned on all sides (flipping once). Set aside.
  2. TO MAKE SAUCE: In a large pot, cook extra virgin olive oil, chopped onion, garlic, celery stalk, fresh thyme and tomato paste with a generous pinch of salt over medium-high heat, until the onion is soft and the tomato paste starts to brown on the sides of the pot. Add dry red wine and cook for 5~6 min until almost completely evaporated. Then add the purreed tomatoes, parmigiano cheese rind, bay leaves, chili flakes, honey, ground black pepper, and all the browned meatballs with all the juice and dripping.
  3. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat to low, cover the pot with just a small slit for steam to escape, and let simmer for 2 hours until the liquid has reduced by 1/3. You should give it a gentle stir once every 20~30 min to prevent burning on the bottom. Re-season it along the way with salt if needed. The stew can be made days ahead. Before serving, gently mix the Dijon mustard into the sauce.
  4. TO SERVE: Cook 500 grams of dried spaghetti a couple min BEFORE al dente. Drain and transfer to a large pot, then add enough sauce to generously cover the spaghetti. Cook for another 2 min until the sauce is slightly reduced and coating every pasta, then transfer to a serving plate with the meatballs on top. Scatter more chopped parsley and a generous amount of grated parmigiano cheese. Serve immediately.
https://ladyandpups.com/2015/02/19/peperoni-meatballs-spaghetti/
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MACAO’S PORTUGUESE FRIED RICE GRATIN

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CAN’T-STOP-WON’T-STOP MESS-ON-A-PLATE,

WITH FLAVOURS THAT WELD PERFECTLY INTO YOUR NEXT WEEK-NIGHT REGULARS

 

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There are some women, whose problem is that they never believe they have what it takes to put together an IKEA coffee table.  Then, there are those such as myself.  Who hold unexplained and relentless faith in their own physical strength.  Who ask, how hard can it be?  Who practically built every single bed-bath-and-beyond in her apartment, with chapped unpolished nails and a can of diet coke.  And who, sometimes, get cocky.

If you ask me now, I would tell you I have absolutely no idea whatsoever, on why on earth did I think I had the same skills as a professional large-scale furniture builder/wood carpenter, which must be how I felt when I bought 3 colossally humongous, solid wood, antique courtyard doors that I thought I could turn into a dinning table with nothing but a mini screwdriver?  Why… why did this feel a bit different from those IKEA bookshelves with their friendly pre-drilled holes?  Why?  I kept asking myself the same question when I dragged this bone-crushingly heavy thing into the shower, scrubbing and rinsing off its ancient dirt that ran into the drain as black as the humour I found in all of this self-inflicted pain.  Today, I can’t feel my neck.

This is the kind of day when I’m really grateful for awesome leftovers.  I can only thank my foretelling self when I crawl to the fridge, dragging behind me a trail of defeat, and find a pure Macanese creation called “Portuguese sauce rice gratin”, a cheesy and bubbly seafood fried rice flooded with a light coconut milk curry and gruyere sauce then finished under the broiler, which I suspect, probably has nothing to do with Portugal.  I came up with its recipe the other day, because I’ve long been curious of it.  With its name being as confusing as its concept, this is one of those dishes that sounds weird but ultimately, defies all logics.  It’s one of the classics on every menu of “tea restaurant” in Hong Kong, among with its peers that all came into existence under the great mashing of different cultures during colonial times.   Without trying it before, you’d probably question… really?  But yes.  YES!  The rice gratin stirs into kind of a cheesy, coconut-y, mildly curried risotto almost, and pleases all way from the taste buds down to a warmed tummy, and repeats.  It is easily one of the most surprisingly delicious, can’t-stop-won’t-stop mess-on-a-plate I’ve cooked, with unlikely flavours that weld perfectly together into your next week-night regulars.

So I feed, heartily, staring into the wooden beasts with restored combativity.  I will break you, I say, and sit a piping hot pan of Portuguese rice gratin on your face while I sip lemonade.  You just watch…

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THE VAMPIRE SLAYER RAMEN-EXPRESS

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CALL IT, THE RAMEN WITH 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC… WAIT.  44 CLOVES.

SOMETIMES, and for the sake of modesty not all the times, but sometimes, after I pasted every photos of a recipe in place and started to stare into space thinking about what I was gonna say… I thought to myself, seriously?  You fucking need a reason to eat this?

Uhem, just sometimes.

But well, today, happens to be one of those times.

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CAULIFLOWER RICE CAKE + POOR MAN’S X.O. SAUCE

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YOUR DESIGNATED DIM-SUM PLACE CAN’T TOUCH THIS

Have you had Chinese turnip cake with X.O. sauce?

Well, the thing is, you probably have without knowing.  Over the dizzying array of small dishes on a dim-sum table, your friend passed you a plate of square white cakes with browned and crispy exteriors, served with a small oily dollop of brownish condiment.  You ate it, mmmmmmm…., probably even asked for the name of the dish, but let’s be honest, who the hell can remember any names from a feeding-frenzy over a dim-sum table?

Well, that, my friend, you just had Chinese turnip cake and its side-kick, X.O. sauce.

I’ve been long trying to come up with a X.O. sauce recipe.  X.O. sauce, suggested from the name given, is made with a large proportion of expensive ingredient, being soaked and shredded dried scallops, and thus lands as a prestigious condiments on the table of Chinese banquette.  It’s usually served in small spoonfuls, as an intense, savoury and spicy flavour-booster to highlight stir-fry dishes, rices and noodles, or dim-sum classics such as the turnip cake.  It’s wonderful.  I love it.  So why not just make that?

Well… I mean, dried scallops are great.  Fancy stuff.  One of those things that are pocket-burning to buy, a pain in the ass to prepare, and in the end of course as all fancy stuffs must be, highly fucked-able.  One miss-step in the prepping and cooking procedure, what was supposed to make this sauce supremely “X.O.”, will also easily turn it into a pile of rubbery and teeth-flossing donkey-hide.  In this particular juncture in my life where several “bad apples” are on the brink of collapsing, I’m not going to risk my iphone 6-fund on something that could potentially malfunction, too.  Especially, not when I believe the beauty of X.O. sauce could be replicated with ingredients that are more, literally, down to earth.

Instead of shredded dried scallops, I’m using dried shitake mushrooms.  In combination with dried shrimp which is also a traditional ingredient in X.O. sauce, this poor man’s version came out well beyond my highest expectation.  It’s robust, complex and intense, embodying the sea-essence from the dried shrimps and oyster sauce, as well as the earthiness of mushrooms and ham.  It’s a symphony of notes that cannot be described unless personally experienced.  And it’s my next it-sauce to be slathered on a bowl of rice, a quick slurps of noodle, or if I’m feeling like going the extra mile, this cauliflower rice cake.

Wait, what happened to turnip cake?  Because I’ve also, long been trying to come up with a turnip cake recipe.  Turnip cake, suggested from the name given, is made with a large amount of Chinese turnip aka daikon, along with Cantonese sausage, dried shrimps, and a batter made with white rice flour.  It’s usually steamed inside a rectangular mold, then sliced and browned over a hot skillet right before serving.  A humble, homey and delicious staple that’s as beloved as anything can get if you came from an Asian background.  It’s wonderful.  I love it.  So why not just make that?


 

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LAST SHIT – THE 3 FOUNDING DONBURI, THE ART OF EATING CANNED MEATS

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(THEY CAN) TRANSFORM INTO SURPRISING DELICIOUSNESS OF ELEGANCE AND COMPLEXITY

THIS is the last post (for awhile at least) of the new week-long segment, The Shits I Eat When I’m By Myself.  Jason is coming home tomorrow, and if you were any decent, none of us is ever going to speak of what happened here in the last few days…  But even though we’re near the end of an epic run, I have meticulously kept the best, and I hope you agree, for the last.

I’m going to share with you what I eat, sunny or rainy, broke or stashed, then-young and now-old, then-slim and now-lumpy… by myself or not, doesn’t matter.  This.  This is what I actually eat, love to eat, and I mean, like all the time.  This is what raised me, put me through college, and every other weekday-nights along with the lovely grin of Jon Stewart.  This, completes me.  I never had a name for this before, but for the sake of easy reference, I will now call it – The 3 Founding Donburi, The Art of Eating Canned Meats.

Donburi, is Japanese “rice bowl”, with various toppings that ranges widely.  The integrity of well-cooked short-grain rice is, of course, important, which is a subject I won’t even touch today for it’s so not the focus here (fine, two words, rice cooker!).  The focus here is the topping, and the topping, my friend, is a promiscuous playground for something that we all, at any given moment, got 1 or 2 stashed in a dark corner within the pantry.

Canned meats.

Good sardines in olive oil from Europe, bad sardines in olive oil from Europe, not-bad sardines in tomato sauce from Southeast Asia, corned beef, tuna, salmon… SPAM!  Misunderstood and badly represented, where people see them as shunned practices of desperation, I see them as cherished and indulging delicacies.  Good quality canned sardines (or even just the OK ones), with just a light touch of acidity, grated ginger and scallions piled over warm rice, can transform into surprising deliciousness of elegance and complexity.  How can I douse sichuan chili oil over diced SPAM, with a few drops of black vinegar and calling it a thing?!  Well, that is too, what doubters said at the historical moment when somebody thought why not smearing a bit of mustard over hotdogs…  Then browned corned beef, mixed with chopped kimchi and gochujang, toasted sesame oil and grated garlic… will have you breathing stinky and happy.

Each of the donburi will take… 2 min to put together at the most (not including the cooking-time of the rice).  Less than the time it takes to boil a pot of water.  And they will have you asking yourself, where have they been all your life?

Well… they’ve been right here.

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THE SHIT I EAT WHEN BY MYSELF – ONE POT INSTANT MC-URRY W BROKEN PASTA

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MY “HURRY CURRY”… GOT MC-DED.

YESTERDAY, rising above a sea of flaming red and orange, I pulled myself together and decided to eat like a real human being.

I ordered McDonald’s.

That’s the danger of leaving me alone with myself, in an obscured reality and a space where I have nobody to impress, culinarily or physically.  Things… can get really low.  I ordered 2 large fries and 20-pc of nuggets, all of which are items I believe to be the gooders among evil, the first being undeniably an extension of real earth-grown potatoes, and the second, … protein.  So on the couch there I was, horizontally, feeling really good about myself consuming a conscious choice of – really, when you think about it – potatoes and chicken protein, and forgot all about WHAT shits I eat when I’m by myself?  I wasn’t at all anticipating a relapse.

The downfall was that I was being too good.  In an applaudable demonstration of restrain and wellness-living, I left a whole 10 pieces of nuggets untouched.  I was practically Gwyneth Paltrow.  But today, when I walked into the kitchen to make one of my absolute favourite of all The Shit I Eats, which is an one-pot, instant-yet-homemade Thai curry with broken thin spaghettis and something legitimate like tofu and shrimps, something unprecedentedly horrid happened.

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Unprecedentedly, was the key word.  I don’t.  Do this.  Except for this time.  My “hurry curry”… got Mc-Ded.

Broken, torn pieces of what’s possibly one of the greatest invention in the history of food, thrown into another greatest invention – curry.  And they married.  I mean, literally.  In the land of curry where it yearns nothing more than substances that can soak up all its complex glory, everything that a curry could ask for, the nuggets answered.  The breading and the porous interior of the nuggets became a sponge that drank up this bowl of good brown, along with broken thin spaghetti as a hearty backdrop, this was one of the best of the worst things I could possibly do.

Just to say… people probably shouldn’t do the same.  Even I.  Don’t do this.  Except for this time.

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THE SHIT I EAT WHEN BY MYSELF – ORANGE RAMEN

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IT REMINDS ME OF (HIGH SCHOOL CAFETERIA), MINUS THE SIDE OF CONSCIENCE THAT CAME WITH ADULTHOOD

So… I guess here we go.  Day 1 of my new segment – The Shits I Eat When I’m By Myself.  Listen… if you were gonna dump me after this, please do it gingerly, ok?

And really, there’s no point talking or paining an elaborate narrative for this “shit”.  It’s pretty self-explanatorily wrong which, unfortunately by the same definition, also guarantees to be uber-tasty.  Any form of instant ramen-noodle drenched in a bastard-sauce between something tomato-ragu-ish and cheez-whiz-ish… cannot taste bad.  It reminds me of the very popular, tomato/cheese ravioli they sold at my high school cafeteria, minus the side of conscience that came with adulthood.

But what I should point out is – given that if you were gonna do the same – this is something one should only do when utterly alone.  I will not be held accountable for what happens when other human beings walk in on you doing this…

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