Beautiful Sourdough Bread Baked in a Cast Iron Dutch Oven

I tried out my new Lodge Double Dutch Oven and just LOVE it! My first dish in the pot was to bake a nice round of sourdough. I set my dough to rise on parchment in a round cake pan to give it shape and make it easy to transfer. In the meantime, I pre-heated the oven with a scant quarter cup of water in it. Once ready, I simply transferred the bread into the pot, covered it and set it to bake. It took a little longer to bake than when I make baguettes, but it came out wonderfully, and the pot really helped to make perfect crust.

Here’s a look of the crumb of the bread plated with dinner. Dinner was a chipotle burger with cilantro lime aoli and a simple salad.

Cast Iron Dutch Oven <3

Lately, I’ve been really loving cast iron. I have a skillet and a couple mini skillets (for puff pancakes for example). I have been waiting for a good deal on a dutch oven and today I ran across this smoking hot deal and immediately ordered one. Lodge Logic is the best and this one has a lid which doubles as a  skillet. I can’t wait to get it! I might make some bread in it right away.

Get your Lodge Double Dutch Oven here! 🙂

Awesome ravioli, and a tip.

 

 

We’re still making pasta by hand in the kitchen and we’ve pretty much got it down pat now. One thing I learned the last time I made the ravioli was that it’s actually better to make the filling ahead of time and refrigerating it. It stays cold throughout the process and is easier to handle. In fact, it stays together so nicely, that you can get fuller and much nicer looking ravioli.

Here’s the tip. Make the stuffing ahead of time and refrigerate. Then when you fill the ravioli, instead of spooning it in or throwing it in, roll them into neat balls. It’s so much neater and makes the ravioli turn out so much nicer.

As you seal the ravioli, keep one end open enough to allow air to escape. If you can keep the ravioli relatively free of air bubbles and filled uniformly, you should end up with a product which looks like this when cut.

The secret to incredible Vietnamese beef broth.

 

 

I was loosely following a recipe for Vietnamese Pho broth and it really came out fantastic. There were two things I learned as I was making this.

One, don’t skimp on the onions. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like onions, if you like the dark rich broth you’d get in a Vietnamese restaurants, you’ll need the onions. You will end up straining them all out later, so don’t worry and just go for it.

Two, and this I consider the big ‘secret’ I learned by the experience is to roast your bones. For me, I used a couple pounds of large bones and a couple pounds of beef back ribs for soup. That way I had a good portion of bones and a good portion of meat too. You could go all beef back rib, but 50% cheap stuff works too 🙂 Put it all in a pan with a couple halved onions on the bottom and roast it all. If you want, put a little water in the bottom of the pan so the onions don’t burn too much, then cook at  350 degrees for 2 hours. The difference in flavor compared to boiling is phenomenal.

What was even more impressive, is after I was all done boiling the broth for most of the night, is that the meat is still delicious and the connecting tissue rendered perfectly.

The next time I make any kind of beef soup – minestrone, beef and been, vegetable beef… I’m going to try roasting the bones first and see if the intense flavor works too (I suspect it will!)

Happy cooking! 🙂

Portabella Truffle Oil Ravioli with Hawaiian Fire Salt Prawns and Scallops

Last night I made this for dinner. I rolled my own pasta dough and made a mushroom filling for it. We didn’t use a heavy sauce for it, but the color you see on the pasta isn’t for decoration. It was bursting with flavor. The short version was this:

Scallops cooked in butter with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Prawns marinated in Hawaiian Fire Salt (sea salt with a little kick) and a touch of cornstarch cooked in butter and chopped garlic
Handmade ravioli with mushroom filling finished with a light drizzle of the scallop juices and sprinkled with a blend of celery, red bell pepper and garlic (cooked down in a little butter) Continue reading

Random thoughts while grinding beef.

 

I spent the day grinding some fresh ground beef. Here’s how I get what I want at a reasonable price….I keep an eye out for the local wholesale market to have a sale on beef (or pork for that matter).  It went on sale for $2.30 a lb. recently, which, as far as sale prices go, is a sign of the times. I should have bought a couple months ago when they were culling the herds but beef prices are up a bit now. I have a feeling that prices are going to go much higher later this year. I picked up a piece about 25lbs and headed home. I then get out the “sword” (a commercial meat carving knife, it’s long and shaped sort of like a scimitar, yarrr! You can find it here.)

Continue reading

A non-traditional St. Patrick’s Day – Corned Beef, Mac and Cheese, Tater Tot, Casserole

 

I’ve been a bit down with a cold this past week and was feeling in dire need of some comfort food. We had the traditional Corned Beef & Cabbage meal just a week ago for no special reason other than “just because”, so I wanted to do something different.

Watching late night Food Network on cable TV definitely has an impact.It makes me want to go all ‘mix and match’ on my food, lol. So I was laying in bed, congested and wanting comfort food and started thinking…Corned beef…..mac and cheese…potatoes… and a plan came together.

Here’s what we did:

  • Covered a corned beef in a baking pan with foil tightly, then baked for 2 and 1/2 hours
  • When it was done and cooling, made two boxes of macaroni and cheese, using only 3/4 of the noodles and all the sauce, to make it wet and saucy
  • At the same time, lined a single layer of tater tots on the bottom of a baking pan and baked for half an hour
  • Chopped the corned beef into 1/4″ cubes
  • When it was all done, layered pepper jack cheese over the tater tots, then a 1/2″ layer of corned beef
  • Spread the macaroni and cheese over the corned beef layer
  • Topped it all with shredded triple cheddar cheese
  • Baked at 400 degrees until the top was browned

It turned out wonderfully. Not too salty, not too oily, and our guess on how wet to make it was just right.

That was our St. Patrick’s Day! How was yours?

Gok Doi (Kok Jai) – Chinese peanut coconut sesame puffs

Growing up, around Chinese New Years, my mother would make these. Crisp and crunchy, filled with sweet goodness, these are the treats of a childhood past. After I made these, I posted on Facebook many of my Chinese friends commented that they hadn’t had it in years, and the memories just seeing them brought back.

Known by many different names, and made in a variety of ways, this was the way my mother did it. It’s a bit of a shortcut compared to many methods, but far less work and hassle to make.  There’s a method where you make the dough from scratch, press or roll it into circles. This method uses pre-made wrappers, (possibly) available at your local Asian market and thus takes about 80% of the work out of the preparation.

Gok Doi (Kok Jai) - Chinese peanut coconut sesame puffs
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
A Chinese New Year's favorite, a recipe for crispy thin skinned peanut, sesame and coconut filled puffs.
Ingredients
  • 1 package of So Kok wraps. (if they're not available Siu Mai wraps can be substituted)
  • 1 Cup roasted peanuts, chopped (fine or coarse, it's up to you)
  • 1 Cup toasted shredded coconut
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup to 1 cup roasted sesame seeds (I go with ¼, it really depends how much you love sesame seeds)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • Oil for frying (peanut oil works best)
Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine peanuts, coconut, sugar, and sesame seeds
  2. Stir well
  3. Take a wrapper and put a small spoonful of filling into it.
  4. Brush beaten egg around half the wrapper, like a smiley face.
  5. Fold the wrap, making sure it's well sealed.
  6. If you have a press you can use it now.
  7. As your wraps are folded, lay them out in a single layer on a baking pan. Don't stack them, they'll stick together.
  8. Fry them a few at a time, cooking until light to golden on one side, then turning them over carefully and frying the opposite side until golden brown.

 

What’s cooking?

Just a little this and that from the past couple weeks here.

Simple dinner. We broiled some bbq sticks, pre-marinaded  and they come frozen, we get them from our local Asian market. They’re pretty good for quick cook food. Fresh SomTum. Even though our Asian market sells it pre-shredded, we like to buy it whole and shred it ourself, for maximum freshness. I make this from scratch.

We’ve haven’t found any kind of instant sauce or powder seasoning that can match fresh individual ingredients. Pad Thai. We’ve tried a handful of pre-mixed pad thai sauces and mixes and again, there’s no substitute (not even close!) to doing it from scratch. In this dish, we tried a more expensive jar sauce and it was still pretty bland.

By the time I added Tamarind sauce, palm sugar, etc.. to add flavor, we could have made it from scratch 🙂

On a side note, I found a really great instant dessert coffee. Instant coffee isn’t the same as fresh coffee, and coffee isn’t the same as espresso or cappuccino. I get that. I don’t mind instant, though, if it’s tastes good. I’m partial to a cup of ginseng coffee in the morning for a kick, when I don’t want to make the mess of breaking out the coffee machine, or even the french press. Sometimes you just need to grab a cup and go, right? 🙂

In the evening, sometimes I like a sweet coffee to go with dessert. I tried this one and it was really good. It bills it self is Kopiccino, and is neat in a couple ways. One, the coffee tastes good. That’s a must. Second, the powder has a thick fluffy white component to it. When mixed, it creates a foam on top, not as thick as, but reminiscent of frothed milk. Third, and lastly, it has a small packet of chocolate powder that comes stickied on the side of the coffee packet. I found that sprinkling this on top, then letting it hydrate allowed me to stir it gently with a chopstick (or coffee stirrer) and form a pattern, just like those fancy coffee shops!  Pretty neat. This is the coffee I’m talking about.

If you like instant, I highly recommend.

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