Cooking up Delicious Adventures Far from Expected Yet Close to Home!
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"Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal." - Julia Child
The oyster has been the ultimate symbol for edible aphrodisiacs. It is the universal emblem for sex and fertility. As Spring is the time to plant seeds and the Oyster has the magical ability to make pearls, in Connecticut we are lucky enough to have some wonderful Atlantic bivalve mollusks that are plump and appealing in salinity. Oysters thrive in Connecticut’s tidal waves and brackish coasts. Consumed by Connecticut’s Native Americas in great numbers, the early Europeans saw oysters as a viable staple in their colonial diets. There are many shellfish species associated with the Connecticut shoreline; however the oyster is king and respected for its flamboyant history, economic foundation, and revered reputation for excellence. I love serving them because they are sexy and an easy amuse bouche or starter for your honored guests. Once you get the hang of opening them which is easy when you have the right tools, all you have do is make a simple dressing or just have some interesting hot sauces and a little horseradish if you like and you have a superb start to a great evening. Elm City Market is one of few places to get local fresh Oysters for home consumption. They have shucking knives and all the accoutrements necessary for an epicurean feast. The mignonette below is super fast and compliments the brininess of the oysters with the sweetness of mango. Since we are longing for Spring in the midst of so much snow and we all need a break, this recipe makes a tropical bite size treat for now.
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup mango juice
¼ cup minced chives
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and serve over freshly shucked oysters and clams.
Growing up in Toronto, I was exposed to the biggest Chinatown in North America. We would go often to eat authentic, fresh, and delicious Chinese food. Chinese New Year is coming up and starts from January 31 and lasts for 15 days. 2014 is the year of the Horse. In Chinese culture, the horse is a symbol of nobility, class, speed and perseverance. The Chinese New Year has many customs associated with its’ celebration. Throughout the New Year’s season, certain foods are served because they symbolize abundance and good fortune. Besides preparing special dishes, like whole fish or chicken, dumplings that look like Chinese money or noodles to symbolize a long life, tangerines and oranges are often passed out to children and guests, as they symbolize wealth and good luck. In America we start the New Year with resolutions and goals for our impending twelve months. Even if you are not Chinese, Asian New Year is an opportunity to recharge and get a second chance to concentrate on some important ideals like family, gratitude, optimism, and positive intentions. Springs rolls are often part of the Asian New Year’s table because they look like bars of gold. They are most importantly fun to make and even better to consume. If you can’t get to New York or Boston for a lion dance or fireworks festivities, have your own Asian New Year’s party and don’t forget to wear red for good luck. You still have a couple days left.
Makes ABOUT 12 SPRING ROLLS
2 tablespoons minced garlic 4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger 1 teaspoon sesame oil 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for brushing on rolls 1 pound ground chicken/or pork 1 cup finely shredded green cabbage
1 tablespoon five-spice powder 12 square (7-inch) spring roll wrappers (See Notes) Sweet chili sauce, for serving (See Notes)
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. or follow Frying methods below.
Sauté the garlic and ginger in the sesame and vegetable oils in large sauté pan set over medium-high heat.
Add the ground chicken or pork to the pan, breaking it apart into small pieces, and sauté until fully cooked.
Add the mushrooms and carrots to the pan and sauté just until wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and drain out any liquid. Stir in the green cabbage, bean sprouts, scallions and hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and five spice powder until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and let it cool for 10 minutes.
Arrange the spring roll wrappers on a dry work surface then place 3 to 4 tablespoons of the chicken mixture in the center of each of the spring roll wrappers. Roll the wrappers around the mixture, folding the edges inward. Before your final fold, dip your fingers in water and then moisten the outer edge of the wrapper to seal the spring roll shut.
Arrange the spring rolls in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat nonstick baking mat. Brush the tops of the rolls with olive oil then bake them for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating after 6 minutes, until they’re golden brown and crispy. Remove the spring rolls from the oven and serve them immediately with the sweet chili sauce mixed with spicy mustard.
Spring roll wrappers can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets.
Sweet chili sauce can usually be found by the Asian isle in most supermarkets with the Thai pantry items. The number one rule to successful spring rolls is to roll tightly! The less space you leave within the spring roll, the less chance of it falling apart while baking or frying.
The rolls can be prepared up to three hours in advance and stored in an air-tight container in the fridge. Remove them from the fridge and bake or fry them when ready to serve.
Heat a wok or heavy-bottomed pan over a high heat, and fill it to a quarter of its depth with enough groundnut oil. Cook’s Note: Ensure your wok is stable beforedeep-frying. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F, or until acubeof bread dropped in it turns golden brown in 15 seconds.
Deep frythe spring rolls until golden brown, turning frequently, and then transfer them, using a slotted spoon, todrainon an absorbent kitchen towel.
Asian Plum Sauce makes a great unique gift for the foodie in your life. You can use it on meat or mix it with mustard for a dipping sauce for dumplings, fresh spring rolls, tofu or vegetables. It is an extremely versatile condiment to add to your canning repertoire.
6 cups chopped & pitted plums (8 cups un-chopped/un-pitted gives you approximately 6 cups chopped & pitted)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon sambal oelek
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
Place all the ingredients in a large thick bottom pot and bring to a boil untill it reaches 215F. Turn down the heat to medium but make sure the temperature stays the same.
Keep stirring the mixture every so often (I did every 10 minutes or so) for 45 minutes. It will get really thick and glossy looking. During the last 10 minutes, use an immersion hand blender to get rid of any peels or chunks that were left or leave it chunky if you like. Then, laddle sauce into clean/warmed canning jars. Process in hot water bath for 15 minutes, then take the lid off and let sit in water for another 5 minutes.Store in a cool dry place.
One of myfavorite herbs is shiso, which is also known as Japanese basil, perilla and beefsteak. It is part of the mint family and has an exotic and alluring taste. You can use it to wrap rice, fish, or in this dressing that is easy and fast to make. It is a little different and a standout for any menu.
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until shiso leaves become finely chopped. This dressing goes well over sashimi, boiled or grilled chicken, cucumber salad, as well as steamed or grilled fish and vegetables.