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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hoisin Glazed Chicken with Marinated Green Onions and Cucumbers


I have to confess that once in a while I have a disastrous cooking day. Usually I take pictures of several meals and post the best looking ones, since there are some things that might be delicious but are not terribly photogenic. This weekend I had several cooking mishaps due to a really bad recipe and a screw up on my part so I went through the pictures that I had not posted and found this recipe. This comes from Martha Stewart’s “Dinner at Home” which I got from my Mom at Christmas (thanks Mom!). I couldn’t find the recipe online but this is really one of those meals that doesn’t require precise measurements.


You start off with hoisin sauce, minced garlic, minced ginger and diced chillies. I like heat so I left the seeds in.


I also added some fresh cilantro.


Everything mixed up together.


I decided to use chicken breasts, which is my favourite cut of chicken since I hate fighting with bones and skin.


I slathered my chicken in the sauce and put it in the oven since I didn’t have enough time to let it marinade.


To accompany my chicken I made marinated cucumbers and green onions. I simply cut my cucumbers in long strips and cut the green onions in roughly the same length. Since I can't get enough chilli, I decided to add some in here as well.


I then covered them completely in rice wine vinegar. They sell several flavours in the supermarket but I always get the plain flavour. The longer you marinade the veggies the more “cooked” they are. Eventually the cucumbers soften a bit but the green onions also have less of an acrid bite.


To make sure that my chicken is not overcooked, since chicken breasts can dry out easily, I usually put in an oven thermometer.


To accompany the veggies and chicken I made rice. This was a really easy and quick meal. The actual meal prep took around 10 minutes and the chicken took around 45 minutes to cook. If you want your chicken to cook faster you can just cut it into smaller pieces. This was really good. The chicken had just the right mixture of heat and savoury flavour from the ginger, garlic and cilantro. Rice wine vinegar is a lot milder than regular vinegar so the veggies had a pleasant crunch without being too acidic. I had some very tasty leftovers for my lunch the next day.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chicken, Cheese and Bean Quesadillas


This my friends, is cooking for dummies. To paraphrase those Geico commercials, “so easy a caveman can do it”. I hold a soft spot for Tex-Mex food; it tends to be fast, easy and oh so delicious. And it has a lot of cheese in it, which is always a plus. This recipe is very easy to whip up on a weeknight after work and you can easily vary the fillings to suit everyone in your family. Tex-Mex Quesadillas at their most basic are a Mexican grilled cheese sandwich, with tortillas instead of bread. Here is my rendition.


I love beans. My family is Latin American so I grew up eating them. Eating them reminds me of my mother’s cooking. I do take a shortcut when making Tex-Mex and use canned refried beans. Please don’t think too badly of me.

I start off by smearing beans directly on a tortilla since it helps to hold everything together.


Next up is the cheese. I have a super difficult time finding Mexican cheese at my supermarket and by difficult I mean they don’t carry any so I always get mixed pre-shredded Taco/Nacho cheese.


As you can see, I don’t skimp on the amount I add.


Next up is the chicken. If you want a vegetarian quesadilla leave it out. In this case I cooked chicken thighs specifically for this recipe but if you have leftover roasted chicken this is a great way to use it up.


I know this will seem very weird but I add Frank’s Red Hot sauce to my chicken. If you want to be more traditional add salsa instead but try Red Hot at least once, trust me, it is really good.


I add a liberal amount of sauce to my chicken. Red Hot is not very hot at all so don’t be scared.


The chicken goes on top of the cheese.


I like red onions so I thinly sliced some and added them along with more cheese. The quesadilla doesn’t cook for a super long time so your onions will still be half raw. If this bothers you either pre-cook them or omit them.


I actually use a crepe pan to cook my quesadillas. The sides are very low which makes it easier to flip them upside down.


I generally cook them on medium heat and when I see that the cheese on top is melting I put a tortilla on top, press down a bit and then put plate on top of the pan, flip it over and then slide the tortilla back again onto the pan.


Mmmm…. cheesy.


Let’s look inside: everything is heated through and the chees has all melted.


I of course, added a scoop of guacamole on the side. Although I am willing to slave for hours over a hot stove to please my stomach, sometimes the tastiest things are happily, quite easy to make. This was a very satisfying dinner and each tortilla is enough for 2-4 meals depending on appetites and what you put in the middle. Do try this recipe out, it is really a go-to recipe when you don’t have a lot of time but you still want something that tastes great.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Shrimp Dumplings


I have had a fierce craving for dumplings lately ever since I went to Chinatown. I have always wanted to try to make them at home, or at least my bastardized version of them. I recently bought a book called “The Comfort Table” by Katie Lee and there was a shrimp dumpling recipe which was just watered down enough for me to try it. The original is here. Usually I try to go for authenticity, at least as close as I can get to it but with Chinese food I make an exception. Since The Husband has a lot of food allergies and he is allergic to a lot of Asian ingredients I can’t buy them so I usually don’t get close to authentic, unfortunately. This recipe gets fairly close however, using basic ingredients that most people have in their pantries.


I love shrimp so I decided to used them for the filling, although you could use pork or another kind of meat.


I also decided to add bamboo shoots and green onions. I really like bamboo shoots, although it is very hard to describe the taste. They taste sort of woody and are crunchy. The green onions are there for the fresh taste.


I then minced everything up in the food processor until it was almost a paste.


I also added in an egg to bind everything together and some garlic, ginger, salt and pepper.


To make my life easier I used wonton wrappers from the freezer section of the supermarket.


Filling the dumplings was rather messy. It is the longest part of the recipe and I had to work quickly before the wrappers dried out. I started off by brushing them with water and depositing a teaspoon of the filling in a corner and then folding them over and pressing on the edges to seal them. At the beginning I overfilled them and everything squished out all over the place but I started using less and everything stayed in place. The husband took the picture above since my hands were full of shrimp at this point.


Here is my pile of finished dumplings. I really should have laid them out flat on a baking sheet and covered them with a damp cloth rather than just piling them on top of each other on a plate. They dried out a bit and were sticking to each other. Oops. Lesson learned.


Since I didn’t feel like frying them I baked them in a pan. To get a crispy texture I used canola oil spray on the pan and then on top of the dumplings. It looks like I was trying to lay them in a geometric pattern but I was just trying to cram as many as I could.


I made a dipping sauce with lemon juice, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, green onions and red chillies.


I really wasn’t sure how long I needed to leave my dumplings in the oven so I left them in until they looked golden.


The outside of the dumplings was nice and crispy and the inside was nicely cooked with a good balance between the shrimp and the veggies. The dipping sauce was tangy and hot with the chillies but I think I will still play around with the recipe the next time I make this. I had a ton of leftovers and it was a fun recipe to try. The longest part was just filling them. I think I will make faux wonton soup by adding some of the leftovers to chicken broth with a bit of the dipping sauce and some cilantro.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Little Sheep Hot Pot Restaurant Review and Chinatown


Although I have lived in Montreal a long time I had never gone to Chinatown before. Last week I decided to remedy that situation and went to go eat Hot Pot with my friend, Roxy. We wandered around while I did my blogger thing and took pictures. The pictures above are from the window of a Thai restaurant that we walked by. They are plastic replicas of the food on the menu, this originated in Japan but you will see it from time to time in other Asian restaurants. I have always thought that it was a brilliant idea and a much better representation than a printed menu.


I was really surprised at how small Montreal’s Chinatown is. It is basically two streets. I grew up in Toronto and the Chinatown there is one of the biggest in North America so it is a big contrast.


The restaurant itself was a bit rundown, you can even see chips on the bowls in the first picture but it was clean and bright.


Hot Pot is a style of cooking in which each diner gets a pot of flavourful broth and proceeds to cook meat and veggies in it, scoop them up and then dip them in sauces. The picture above is of Roxy’s pot. There was a choice of herbal broth or spicy broth, she chose half and half.


Since I love all things hot I got a pot full just of spicy broth. I thought we were going to plain liquid broth but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was more complex. In the spicy broth there were lots of things floating around: fresh garlic, dried chilies, pieces of green onions and a whole bunch of other things that neither Roxy nor I could identify. The broth was very flavourful and very spicy although a tad on the oily side. It was real authentic spicy, not was passes off as spicy in most North Americanized Chinese restaurants.


Along with our broth we got platters of lamb and beef, thinly sliced. I think the top picture is lamb and the bottom is beef.


In addition to the platters of meat there was also a buffet of raw ingredients that you could get up to go get. While there were lots of interesting things like chicken gizzard, fish head meat and beef tripe, Roxy and I stuck to more familiar offerings. I was really happy to see that they had lotus roots and taro both of which I love. They also had seafood and a ton of different kinds of noodles. This is definitely a good place for vegetarians and carnivores to go eat together since you can customize your meal pretty easily.


This is my hot pot with all of the ingredients cooking together. I started dropping them in one by one at the beginning but since that proved to be thoroughly inefficient I just started adding them in in batches.


It was a bit tricky to fish everything out. I tried using my spoon but I also fished out a lot of the chilies in the process and got broth all over the table doing this.


I tried using my chopsticks which worked fairly well but the noodles were super slippery and kept falling back in.


Here is my plate of some of the food I fished out. I dipped them in hoisin sauce. I forgot to take a picture of that. Oops!

I’m rather ambivalent about my Hot Pot experience. The variety of food was good but it was a bit frustrating to eat, I was also disappointed at the lack of variety in the sauces, since I love condiments and there were just a few, but I would maybe try this place again.


After dinner we went to a Chinese bakery to try to find some dessert.


Everything looked so good, especially the cakes. In the end we got some drinks and I got a mini lemon loaf.


Roxy got a cold coconut coffee drink. I had a sip and wished that I had ordered this instead of mine. It was so good! I love coconut milk.


I got a honeydew bubble tea which was good, very fresh tasting bit not as good as Roxy’s drink.


My mini lemon loaf was good but lacking in lemon. The lemon flavour basically consisted of the squiggle on top but it was very moist and soft.

So that was my grand trip to Chinatown. I had fun and it is always nice to discover a new area of your city. There were other really good looking restaurants which we passed by so we will most definitely go back!


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