January 29, 2010

"So good I Wish My Mouth Was Bigger" Dad's Special Fried Rice

Ahhhhh, everyone dies over my dad's special fried rice. Seriously, no one makes it like him. He's got some special leprechaun skill that makes everyone go a tad ridiculous over his fried rice. When I say tad ridiculous, I mean folks get very excited, gather in the kitchen and watch his every move - just waiting until he exclaims - let's eat! And we can't eat just one or two bowls...no, we got back for thirds and usually, the entire pot is gone. Case in point - Ross. Dad left him an entire pan for him to eat the next few days and a few weeks later, I found out that he actually ate the entire thing in one sitting.... I know its Ross but still, this stuff is like crack and is just that good. I can probably eat about three bowls of this stuff myself. So, what's so special about it?
He uses a special veggie - garlic onion/leek. These are not green scallions. I've only ever seen this in asian grocery stores and only in the winter time. Here's a picture of what these suckers look like. They are thicker than normal leeks and green scallions and the bulbs are much firmer with a slight purple hue through it. The stalk is thicker and more flavorful.
So this awesomeness is also by the process of how he cooks it. Beware, I've tried to emulate his process and really, can't get it the same as him. Like I said, he's got a secret leprechaun skill that no one else has. Here's my super cute dad cooking lunch for us!
Dad's Special Fried Rice
need: a small bowl for soy sauce, plate for eggs/sausage after initial cook, large pot/pan to cook the rice
4 cups of rice (better if it's a day old)
*Also, when I say 4 cups, it's the chinese cup that you use to measure your uncooked rice before you put in the rice cooker. I think this comes out to a lot more rice when cooked....
4 eggs beaten
2 or 3 links of chinese sausage (you can omit this if you don't want meat but this flavor adds quite a bit to the dish)
3 stalks of garlic onion/leek (cut the white section into diagonal slices roughly 1/8 inch thick and the green section into 1/2 inch length)
1/2 lb of shrimp cut into small pieces (so each shrimp, cut into three pieces)
Soy sauce (amount really depends on how salty you like. I prefer adding more soy sauce versus salt)
Canola/Veg oil (do not use olive oil)
1. Cook your rice if you don't have rice from yesterday. If from yesterday, warm in microwave for roughly 3 minutes. Using a spoon, mix up the rice so it's not in big chunks.
2. Heat up a large ot and add some oil. Beat your eggs and quickly scramble them in the pot. *If you have green scallions, you can add them here too if you'd like. Take out the egg and put on a plate for use later.
3. In the same pot, cook the chinese sausage until almost done. Again, take it out and put on the same plate as the eggs.
4. Cook the shrimp next until almost done. Take out and add to egg and sausage plate.

5. Add some more oil into the pot and add in the garlic onion/leeks and cook until very fragrant. Make sure to stir constantly. Add some salt to the leeks.
7. Add the warm rice to the leeks and mix to incorporate well.

8. Add in the eggs, sausage and shrimp. Mix well. (Note, you can always add other veggies or meat. Just do the same process of cooking each separately and then incorporating everything in the end)
9. Pour soy sauce into a bowl and then drizzle the soy sauce over the rice. This helps you control how much you put into the rice. Add some, taste and then add more if you liek. Also add in a dash of salt (if needed) and lots of pepper. Make sure to taste everytime you add more.
10. Let it cook for a little more. I like when the rice at the bottom of the pot gets a little crunchy :)
11. Done! Serve and make sure you have enough for seconds, thirds....

January 18, 2010

Individual Blueberry Cobbler

I love fruit and I've been introduced to the amaziness that is Costco this past year. They sell fruit in bulk and have the best, sweetess blueberries! I bought a big box and with my last few tidbits of blueberries, I decided to make some cobbler for dessert - a perfect dessert for a cold night and Ross brought home Indian food for dinner. However, I ate too much Indian food and didn't enjoy the cobbler until the next day but I have on good authority from Ross that he liked the cobbler.

This was very simple and took less than 15 minutes. It was a tad sweet for me so I will cut down on the sugar next time. I'll also try to experiment more with more spices and fruits. With plums and peaches in season, that may be my next try.
Side note, anyone have a good recipe for Chicken Tiki Masala? Need to figure out the darn sauce.

Blueberry Cobbler
Recipe loosely adapted from
Barefoot Contessa
Serves 2 (Need: Two mixing bowls and 2 ramekins)
(You can double the recipe for more or just click on the Barefoot Contessa original recipe for a bigger serving size.)
Blueberry Filling
1 cup fresh blueberries (not frozen or you’ll have too much liquid in your cobbler)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
Juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dash of honey (I cut back on the sugar)

Cobbler Topping
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
Pinch of salt
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
½ stick cold unsalted butter in small cubes (keep in fridge until you need to use it)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Put clean and dry blueberries in a bowl and toss it with the lemon zest, juice, sugar, vanilla extract, honey and flour. Let it sit while you make the crumble topping. 3. In another bowl, add the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Quickly toss to mix. Then take the butter out of the fridge and add. With your fingers or a fork, combine the butter cubes into the flour until you get a crumbly mixture – size of large peas. (You can also use your food mixer for this).
4. Spoon the blueberries into the ramekins evenly (pour in the juice too!). Add the crumbles to the top of the blueberries. It will look like a lot but it’s okay. 5. Put ramekins on another pan (there will be leakage due to the blueberries rising and coming over the edge). Cook for 45 minutes.

January 06, 2010

Restaurant Review: Cova Wine & Tapas Bar for their S&S Special

I'm a big fan of steak - but it usually has to be my dad's steak. When he buys them, he soaks them in sauce in a ziplock bag and freezes it so when its time to eat, it thaws and compltely infused with the flavor. Delicious!

Tuesday night at Cova on Washington is Steak and Shrimp night - all for only $15! Go early because they serve what they have, once out, you're out of luck. Cova is known more for their wine and tapas. Beware, it's a small, cozy little place with roughly 15-20 sets of large tables. They were kind enough to pull together a group of tables for our big group. Its small so when its packed with people, its incredibly loud and hard to hear folks talking down the table if you have a dinner group of 5 or more.

The best part of the night, when driving up to the restaurant, we saw a grill outside across the street and a pile of white plates sitting next to it. Pretty hilarious that they cook the steaks outside and then run them across the street to the restaurant. So, let's get on to the food:

Lobster Risotto w/saffron and crab - Being from Texas, we're always curious about portion. So while it's labeled as a tapa, it's definitely large enough for dinner. It was fairly tasty but definitely no comparison to Tony's lobster risotto. The lobster flavor was not incredibly prominent and unfortunately, it had way too many peanuts/nuts, which overpowered the seafood hints and took away from the creaminess that risottos should be. It was good, not great.

Steak and Shrimp - This looked delicious served on the plate and was a fairly large portion. The shrimps were grilled and seasoned well but its hard to mess up shrimp! The steak was cooked just right at medium rare with it seared on the outside and a good light pink on the inside. The texture was a little chewy, making it less than great and the seasoning should have been kicked up a notch.

Overall, I give this place a three out of five stars. Service was pretty good and accomodating to help arrange our tables, parking was a tad slow (but the poor valet guy was on his own), and the special Tuesday deal gave it a boost in rating. The risotto wasn't bad, just wasn't as good as others I have had and steak was blah, not memorable. Maybe this rating will be higher when I go for the wine and their special tapas rather than their steak and shrimp specials.

January 05, 2010

Restaurant Review: Hibiscus (Dallas)

For my birthday, my sister and brother in law treated me to dinner at Hibiscus in Dallas. It was pretty fantastic! I think of it more as a steakhouse/seafood/american restaurant. From the outside, it looks like this tiny little restaurant but inside, it's quaint with a wood/rustic decor and actually very big (the restaurant is incredibly deep/long with about four different sitting areas).

We were seated promptly but right next to a bar so that was a tad annoying with folks coming, going, standing, talking and waiters walking by all the time.

Here's what we chowed on for appetizer:

Baked Dungeness Crab Dip which was really good and really cheesy. Perfect for a cold night. We read Yelp reviews prior and several people recommended this dish.

And for the main course:
Roasted Liberty Farms Duck Breast with grilled sweet corn and a bing cherry sauce. This was cooked medium and it was perfect. It had the crispy skin with just a tad sliver of the fat underneath and the meat was cooked very well. Eat it together with a bing cherry and it was pretty tasty. I wasn't a huge fan of the grilled corn - not a ton of sweetness or flavor but I think its because the cherry sauce overpowered it.

Prime Short Rib with potato puree in a zinfandel sauce. Eric had this dish and when it came out, there was a unison cry of "ooooooh." It comes out on the bone and was huge. I had a piece and it was pretty darn good. Some thought it was better than the duck. He said the meat was very tender.

Crispy Skate Wing with potatoes, pancetta, spinach and lump crab blanc. My dad had this dish and it was pretty darn cool asthetic wise and delicious! We didn't know what Skate was but the waiter explained its in the same family of the Stingray and has the texture and taste of crab. The meat comes in the shape of a wing thus the name. I had to wikipedia this sucker of course. Apparently Skate is similar to stingrays but their movements on the ocean floor are much more abrupt that they look like they are skating. It also looks like a big bat with tentacles - bleh! They have a slow growth rate, are at risk for being overfished so think about that next time you see it on the menu!

Pan Roasted Sea Bass with spaghetti squash and roasted tomatoes in a lemon vinagrette. My mom loves fish and really, you really go wrong with chilean sea bass. It was cooked perfectly and good - and more importantly, it was a big piece so you aren't left feeling a little bit hungry like so many other places. However, when at new restaurants, I typically stray away from sea bass since I always know it will be good and people don't really cook it any differently (sear or poached) - and I'm always up for trying new dishes I can't get anywhere else.

Overall, I give this place a 4 out of 5. Food was pretty fantastic but the seating was a little annoying and valet was a downside. Valet was outside and this station served three restaurants so it was situated a little down from the entrance meaning that on a cold night, it makes for a very brisk 5 minutes while waiting for your car! If I'm back in Dallas, I'd definitely come back here.

Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto

I love carbs. I love rice. I love cheese. I like squash. Naturally, I love risotto. I love the creamy texture, the varying flavors and all the different ways it can be prepared. One of my favorite risotto places is Piccos in Sausalito where they make fresh risotto every 20 minutes! Delish. My second favorite is the lobster risotto from Tonys. That dish is the single reason this restaurant is in my top 3 fav restaurants in Houston.

This was the first real meal I made in my new house and kitchen. Yippeee! This isn't an incredibly simple dish though - required lots of time stirring and standing over the stove and it also takes up several pots and utensils. I hate cleaning dishes so recipes with the fewer pots and pans always get an extra star. Ingredient wise, this was a good start with butternut squash. I'd like to venture out and make one with various type of mushrooms and ultimately, lobster risotto. Probably won't be as good as Tonys but you never know.

I served this with a brussel sprout and proscuitto side.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Serves 6 to 8 (Need: 2 medium sized pots and 1 small pot)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
10 sage leaves (5 whole, 3 chopped and 2 sliced)
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 onion diced into small cubes
2 shallots diced into small cubes
3 tbsp butter
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
Finely grated Parmesan cheese

1. Peel, cube and clean the butternut squash. Put in small pot with 5 whole sage leaves and 1 cup chicken stock. Put on medium heat and let it cook until squash is tender - roughly 10 minutes.
2. In a medium pot, put the rest of the chicken stock and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, put it on medium to low to keep it hot.

3. While squash is cooking, put the onion, shallots and chopped saged into a hot pan with 2 tbpn of butter. Cook until onions are almos clear. Add the rice, dash of salt and let it cook for a few more minutes. Then add in the wine and once it is almost absorbed, turn the heat down to medium. Make sure to continually stir the rice so the rice does not burn.
4. Start ladling one large scoop of hot chicken stock (or more) to just cover the rice. Stir and let the rice absorb the liquid. Continue this process one ladle at a time until the rice is cooked. If your rice is still not cooked and you are running low on stock, you can add hot water to the stock. 5. Check the squash pot. Once cooked, I also took the squash broth and added to the hot pot of broth for the rice. 6. Once rice is done, turn off heat and add 1 tbsp of butter, sliced sage leaves and parmesan cheese. Give it a good quick mix to incorporate and serve!