Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kung Pao Chicken Redux

Our quest for the best Kung Pao Chicken continues, my husband on occasion makes it. Each time he tweaks it a  bit to try to find the Nirvana we are looking for.  This was close, the fried Chili's make all the difference.

1.25 -1.5 pounds chicken (we used 1/2 boneless skinless breast portions and 1/2 boneless skinless thighs, rinse and remove large fat pieces) Cube into about 1/2" squares
2 teaspoons corn starch
4 teaspoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons Shao Xing (if you cant find Shao Xing ask for Shao Sing it's cooking rice wine -- same product)
3 tablespoons peanut oil
10 dried red chilies (whole)
5 dried red chilies coarsely chopped
5 green onions (sliced)
1/3 white onion diced largely
2 tablespoons garlic (chopped)
2 tablespoons ginger (1 tsp grated, one chopped finely)
2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 teaspoon light soy sauce
5 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil (the dark stuff)
3 tablespoon chicken stock
3 tablespoons Oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 generous handful roasted peanuts 
Mix the chicken, cornstarch, water, soy sauce, and rice wine in a plastic bag and let marinate for 10-20 minutes

Heat the oil in a pan until hot, then ad the red chilies and sichuan peppercorns and fry until fragrant, about a minute -- they will smoke and blacken, turn often, watch carefully and remove the peppers from the oil immediately once it looks like they start to burn (if you eat these, and I DO, they have a WONDERFUL peanutty flavor)

Let the oil get back to near smoking hot, add the chicken and saute for a minute or so per side, turning often to get a good sear

Add the white part of the green onions, the white onion, garlic and ginger.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, chicken stock, oyster sauce, sugar and corn starch and cook until the chicken is cooked and the sauce thickens, a couple of minutes.

Serve with rice, garnished with the peanuts and the green part of the green onions.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Homemade Toffee with Chocolate, Almonds and Sea Salt

I have been into making candy this holiday season. I made it last year as well but this year I feel like I really know what I am doing.  The recipe I follow was so vague, I decided to make it step by step with photos so you can easily follow the directions and not be left wondering like I was.

I made mine two different ways, the 1st time I put half the crushed almonds in the mixture, did the chocolate then sprinkled the remaining nuts on top.  The second time I put all the crushed almonds in the mixture, did dark chocolate, then added sea salt on top.  Both were excellent.

You don't really need a candy thermometer either, you can use an instant read and just check every few minutes or wing it and use your judgement and call it good when it turns a nice nutty brown.

2 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 package (11-1/2 ounces) milk chocolate chips or dark chocolate
1 cup finely chopped almonds, toasted (I used Smokehouse Almonds)
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
Sea Salt (optional)


1. Line the bottom and sides of a 15-in. x 10 in. x 1-in. pan with foil, Silpat or use a non stick pan.

2. In a large heavy saucepan, melt butter. Add the sugar, water, Vanilla and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 290° (soft-crack stage).  It will look like this at the beginning.  The entire process will take about 12-15 minutes.

It will turn whiteish in color and bubble, stir occasionally and test the temperature if you wish.

As it gets closer to the 295 degrees, it will start turning brownish

Be sure and have your nuts at the ready, this consistency is about right, before you take it off the heat, add your nuts and stir, stir, stir till they are well incorporated.  Optionally you can put in half and then save the rest for the top of the chocolate.

3. Pour into prepared pan. Cool for 4 minutes

Sprinkle with chocolate chips; let stand for 3 minutes. Spread melted chocolate evenly over candy.  It may act like it is not going to spread, but keep spreading it around and it will continue to melt naturally.

Sprinkle with almonds; (either use the other half if you chose not to mix it all in or you can use Sea Salt which is what I did on the below batch).  (press down lightly). Cool until chocolate is firm. Break into bite-size pieces. Store in airtight containers.  I use Ziplock bags.

Final Product, two different kinds of Toffee. One with Smokehouse Almonds, Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt, the other with Smokehouse Almonds, Milk Chocolate, topped with more Smokehouse Almonds.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Garlicky and Buttery Shrimp

I scored some Wild Shrimp at New Seasons the other day and was looking for a recipe which baked the Shrimp.  I knew I wanted to use Lemon and lots of Garlic.  I ended up using this recipe from the Pioneer Woman.  It was OK but next time I want to really punch up the flavor of the Lemon, so I will add some zest to the butter.

  • 1 pounds Raw Shrimp, Deveined, and peeled
  • 1 sticks Cold Unsalted Butter Cut Into Pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 2 cloves Garlic, Peeled
  • 1/8 cup Fresh Parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 whole Lemon, Juiced
Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse frozen shrimp to separate, then arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.

In the bowl of a food processor, add cold butter, garlic, lemon juice, salt, parsley, and red pepper. Pulse until combined. Sprinkle cold butter crumbles over the shrimp.

Bake until shrimp is opaque and butter is hot and bubbly.

Serve with hot crusty bread. Peel and eat the shrimp, then dip the bread into the butter in the bottom of the pan.

How to spatchcock a chicken or turkey!

Finishing some of Cheryl's drafts... Keeping spatchcocking simple. Using a VERY sharp cleaver or kitchen shears -- not scissors, carefu...