Glazed Tadpole-oca donuts w/ salted peanut dust

Publishing a recipe that is aimed at overtaking an old one on a recipe blog like this, is a bit of a dangerous rabbit hole to fall down in.

For starter, it implies that the old recipe being replaced, however satisfactory it was left for the public consumption in good faith, was after all, only subpar in comparison.  An uncomfortable admission that these recipes, or at least some of them, are only as good as the limits of their developers at the time whose standards may at some point surpass their own creations.  That some recipes are ultimately, imperfect and transitory.  Which then leads to the question that, well, if one recipe here is found to be less than worthy of eternity, or at least till the end of mankind due to disasters of cosmic proportions, then who knows how many other recipes here are potentially shy of such basic standard?  Because if this isn’t the promised space that guarantees unequivocally immaculate cooking manuals that fill the empty pockets of our blip of an existence in a totally indifferent no-shit-given universe, then what are any of us even doing here?  What’s the point?  I mean do you know?  Does she know?!  And when I said she, I meant I.  What’s the meaning of all this??  Do I even deserve to live??!!

So you see, a bit of a hole.

But sometimes, things have to be done, holes have to be jumped into.  Which brings us, to this mochi donut.

A few years ago at an early age of this blog, I published a donut recipe that aspired to yet fell short of mimicking the lovingly supple and chewy texture of a Japanese donut franchise called Mr donut, or aka, the pon de ring donut.  To my defense, the recipe was accurately differentiated as mochi donut instead of pon de ring, because it was made of sticky rice flour instead of tapioca flour, and obviously shaped as a traditional donut instead of a ring of beads which simply can’t avoid suspicious sexual implications as it was typed out loud.  But even as a mochi donut, although deliciously soft and chewy while they were warm, it was slightly denser in texture and even mores so once they became cold.  An issue for people, even if only an untrained few, who aren’t mentally equipped to ingest a dozen donuts in one short sitting.

The truth is since then, for years, I’ve been sitting on a tapioca flour-batter recipe that is extremely easy to put together and lands on a donut that greatly if not perfectly mirrors the light and airy, silky yet chewy texture that had pushed pon de ring donuts to stardom amongst iconic Asian pastries.  But, I haven’t told a living soul about it.

Why?  Let me focus on the word, batter, here, meaning a formless glop that is impossible to shape into ringed beads (stop it) without specifically designed pipping machines to do so, as it is done in Mr Donut factories.  Meanwhile the other pon de ring recipes across the internet which purposely made the batter denser like a dough in order to be formed into tiny beads one by one that are then arranged and stuck together on a parchment before frying just so you can finally have a reason to hang yourself from your shower rod afterwards, is frankly, for a lack of better word, stupid.

So for years, I sat on this recipe thinking, nevermind, it’ll never work, until one day, all of a sudden I realized, I was the one being stupid.

Seriously, who cares if thy donuts aren’t carrying an unambiguous resemblance to cheap second-grade adult play toy?  And if you’re screaming yes yes you do! to that question, who shall safely remain anonymous god bless the internet, then I shall make an even strong, gastronomical argument against such silliness.  Because I realized, by not insisting on an uniform shape and dropping the batter into the fryer in a specific motion, the end result rewards me with these elongated “tails” that became extremely crispy and chips-like which stay crispy several hours after, a pleasant surprise that contrasts the pillowy “main body”, a puffed golden browned air balloon that deflates as your teeth sink into its unexpectedly weightless and uncluttered interior, proportionally coated on a single hemisphere with glossy, vanilla seeds icing.

Held delicately by its tail, a dainty bouncy morsel that curtsies with a crunch.

I call them, the tadpole-oca donut.  And they come with salted peanut brown sugar dusts. Bead that.

”  the end result rewards me with these elongated ‘tails’ that became extremely crispy and chips-like which stay crispy several hours after  “

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Flatten the curve (bird)

”  In this climate where any certainty is elusive at best, I can promise you this…  “

I’ve always been an avid campaigner in the flattening of a bird, a process of turning this hopelessly 3-dimensional animal that insists on uneven heat distribution, into a 2-dimensional disk that crisp up indiscriminately across the plane.  Without the technicality of deboning the entire chicken and armed with only a single kitchen shears and a flat skillet, I’m going to show you how to easily de-joint and de-scaffold a bird so that it can achieve an unequivocally crispy and blistered skin-cap on one side, and slow-cooked therefore succulent and unbelievably juicy meat (even the breasts!) on the other.  In this climate where any certainty is elusive at best, I can at the very least, promise you that you’ll never want to roast another bird after this.

STEP 1:  You’ll be able to finish this entire process with a kitchen shears.  Remove the wing tips and place the bird with the backbone/spine facing the counter.  Then cut through the breast bone to open the bird up.

STEP 2:  Flip the bird over with the skin-side up, then bend and snap/dislocate the joints that connects the thighs to the backbone/spine by bending the thighs 90 degrees upward.  Flip the bird back now with the skin-side down.  With a kitchen shear, completely cut through the joints that connects the wings to the breast (but have them still attached), then remove the triangular breast-bone as seen in this photo.

STEP 3:  To further flatten the bird, cut along the rib cage to separate it from the backbone/spine, then cut through it again somewhere around the mid-point to flatten the natural curvature of the rib cage.  Also cut through the wishbones that connects the shoulder and breast to the rib cage.  Don’t worry, there’s no strict technicality here.  The rule of thumb is disconnect every single joints that holds the bird in shape so that it can be completely opened up and flattened.

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Pork shoulder steak w/ light sesame oil and egg yolk sauce

A FEW WORDS…

Dear citizens of earth,

Look, each and every one of us can either choose to self-isolate and let this coronavirus fiasco blow over in a few weeks.

Or, you can continue to meet up with your buddies and talk about dicks and boobs over boozes while dragging your world, correction, our world, into months and months of economic Arma-fucking-geddon.

It’s not really a choice.  Because guess what, it’s too late to be South Korea.  That ship has sailed.

So go and stay home.  Work, watch TV, jerk off, or cook this, whatever.  Just don’t be an idiot.

Pork steak enthusiast,

Mandy

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Best sandwich bread, Florence-style schiacciata

”  A whopping 85% hydration… transforms into a gorgeously glossy and almost fluid blob of a dough that spreads willingly, and yields elastic translucent crumbs and a terrain of air bubbles.  “

I am no master baker.  But dude, you listen to me on this one.

Been to Florence?  No?  Well, okay… sorry I guess.  But this message is no less urgently relevant to you than those who have, particularly, those who have visited what is rumored to be the greatest sandwich shop in the world, All’antico Vinaio right in the center of Florence.  But what makes their sandwiches good you ask, some even say the best?  One could certainly make a convincing case for its market-style array of every single charcuteries, cheeses, vegetables and spreads that the great region of Tuscany has to offer.  But if you ask me, as it usually turns out in the subject of sandwiches, it is the bread.  More specifically, schiacciata.

What is schiacciata?  And do not mistaken it with focaccia don’t you dare.  Schiacciata is a Florentine flatbread that characteristically is closer to, I’d say, a pizza bianca than anything else.  Ever since my visit to All’antico Vinaio years ago, it wasn’t their truffle cream or fennel salami that haunted my restless keto dreams.  It was the carbsIt was the fucking carbs.  So last week, I finally decided enough is enough.

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Chicken in hot and sour coconut broth

I made this dish randomly and without aim a couple weeks ago and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d share it.

Despite its gentle-mannered appearance, this soup will slap you out of your winter slumber if you so underestimate it.  Marinated and crispy-browned chickens in an aromatic Thai-style coconut broth that is almost too sour, almost too spicy, almost too salty that the corners of my jaws received it just as much as my tongue.  But only almost almost almost, because in the end I realized I couldn’t stop drinking it, this warming dish that sits right at the spearhead of all the sensations that our tastebuds could withstand and lingers there.

I know you’d love it, too.  That’s all.

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Miso congee w/ crispy scallion oil and cream

”  It’s an agent of both calmness and arousal, a stimulating congee.  “

Around this time of the year with its cold crisp air, with it carrying a smell of memory that I can’t seem to grapple, I am loosened and adrift.  I feel like anchoring to a sleeved cup of coffee with both hands, and wander aimlessly on the street decorated with relentless sparkles.  Like an old lady who has lost something but couldn’t remember what.  My fingertips are toasty, the coffee sleeve too thin… I’m a child to be fetched.

This, of course, could be seasonal sentimentality talking.  But also possibly early, really early onset alzheimer.  Both equally dangerous.

I’ve been meaning to cook something that satisfies my overindulged melancholy, something to be eaten after I sing me a river to skate away on and stare out the window for no apparent reasons.  Something to part from the perception that congee or porridge – still in my mind, the perfect comfort food – is bland and monochromatic, but at the same time celebrates the fact that it is nourishing, consoling, and the food-equivalent of very expensive therapists.

I started with a very clean, water-based miso broth as the foundation of a soothing but flavorful congee, then dribbled on pockets of excitements from crispy scallions and garlic chips fried in olive oil, quick-pickled shallots and lightly whipped heavy cream.  The miso congee is thick, enwrapping, but appropriately lubricated by the luscious mouthfeel of the herbaceous olive oil and the cool sweetness of cream, with a cadence of brightness from the crisped scallions and garlic, tangy shallots and the occasional burst of pain from finely minced pickled bird’s eye chilis.  It’s an agent of both calmness and arousal, a stimulating congee.  Break a soft-boiled egg on top and it’s a legit meal.

It’s the kind of stuff I crave around this time.  And I suspect you, too.

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The amazing paradox of scallion popover s’more

” Nothing about this makes any sense… Yet it’s going to change the s’more world as you know it. “

Mark my words.  None of this makes any sense.  Nothing about it suggests that it should work.  Scallions and marshmallows?!  If you now shelve this idea in the lightless skepticism inside your head, it will forever be just a reminder that I – the Asian chick who has been left unchecked for far too long in the internet wilderness – have finally gone mad.

But if you could just push aside your good senses (the little voice inside your head telling you that the third powdered donut won’t help you, yes that one, scrap it), this recipe will turn the s’more world as you know it, upside down.

Yes, scallions, possibly one of the least likely substances to be associated with s’more next to pickled herrings and petroleum, against all odds, has somehow proven to be a miraculously effective liaison between our taste buds and the buttery, slightly chewy sweetness of charred marshmallows.  Yes!  That is what I’m saying!  But how could this be?  Have I lost my mind?  Well, I wish I could take the credit for this insanity but in cold hard reality, I did not, sadly, invent this.  In fact, I have utterly stolen this idea from a Taiwanese cracker that is sold in all major Taiwanese airports, the scallion cracker nougat sandwich.

Yes, that’s a real thing, scallion soda cracker sandwich with a nougat filling.  Not that the case for savory-sweet hasn’t been established elsewhere, but none has ever been so curiously bizarre, absurd to a point.  Even the attempt to imagine the two flavors conjoining triggers a repulsion reflex put in place by millions of years of human evolution.  So what kind of a sick person came up with this twisted though in their evil lair, I didn’t bother to look up in my bitter jealousy, but what’s for sure is that it has turned every skeptics, Taiwanese or not, into a believer that the age for scallions to join the company of confectionary has finally arrived.

So why don’t I just do a recipe for a scallion crack nougat sandwich, you ask?  Well, if you have ever intended to make soda crackers at home you’d know that it is an unnecessary labor with negative returns.  And homemade nougat, even more so.  Try to stuff a little dollop of the latter inside the former and repeat 40 times?  Yeah I didn’t think so either.  Especially when there is an alternative for both that are not only easy and rewarding to make at home, but in my opinion, far more superior in textures, tastes, and last but not least, fun.

A foolproof scallion popover recipe that is pop-guaranteed with gorgeously crispy crust and a warm and spongy center, salty and buttery where just the right amount of scallion aroma permeates through its pores.  Then its naturally hallow cavity gently holds together the liquified state of the caramelized marshmallows, unstable stringy and promising, until you take your first faithful bite to collapse its integrity, as the crispy and spongy savoriness of the popover clashes against the burnt and buttery candy-ness of the marshmallows.  How unlikely so yet incredibly right.

And you too, from this point on, will forever wonder and marvel at the paradox that is the new s’more.

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Broken rice crispy crust and chicken cutlets

”  A crust that is both crispy and airy, with a exceptionally craggy surface that foretells that a multi-textural experience awaits.  “

Amongst fried foods enthusiasts, the quest to find the perfect breading, never ends.  Often times either thin but un-impactful, or substantial but too heavy, the delicate balance in a perfect breading, or shall we say “crust”, is elusive and ever-changing.

But today, I feel as if I had come to a near conclusion that seems to suggest that the search is over.  A breading that leads to a crust that is both crispy and airy, but more importantly, stays crispy and airy, where its exceptionally craggy surface foretells that a multi-textural experience awaits.  Large and small puffy crunches that are light, spontaneous, and almost lacelike.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, the broken rice crispy crust.

Yes, rice crispy, the juvenile cereal, the cereal that nobody actually eats on its own, the cereal that only finds life’s meanings in a tightly compressed square jammed with marshmallow and butter, the cereal that, even then, is promptly rejected by the first sign of puberty and any desire to get laid in the years that follow.  Yes, that rice crispy.  That rice crispy has been dying to reinvent itself and think outside its sad box.  And now reinvent itself, without a doubt, it has.  It’s almost as if it was born to do this, to fill in the gaps between the inadequacies of flours and breadcrumbs, to become the unsung hero.  The new it-crust.

Now it would be a crime to confine its new found purpose on not just chicken cutlets.  Think chicken popcorns, pork cutlets, chicken fried steak, fried fish, shrimps, or anything that welcomes a good deep fry and a glass of beer.

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