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Posts Tagged ‘Cooking

tomato egg drop soup

One of the fondest childhood food memories I have is eating stir-fried tomato and egg made by my grandma. It’s one of the Chinese comfort food staples that is often made at home, particularly when time is not plentiful and stomachs are growling for food as soon as possible. It’s simple, fast, and light, and assuming you use fresh, fragrant, bright red tomatoes, the pure flavors of the tomatoes and eggs really shine through with just the right amount of seasonings.

ground turkey (substitute)

Although I have always loved stir-fried tomato and egg, once my grandma died when I was about nine years old, I suddenly forgot that I ever ate it. After her passing, no one ever made it for me again, and it was as though the dish had died with her. It seemed like life had always been this way — empty and without one of my favorite foods, my beloved fan qie chao dan (番茄炒蛋).

Then I went to China 11 years later, and it was appearing at restaurant tables everywhere I ate. And as soon as I saw it, it was as though a light bulb had popped into my head, blinking and screaming, “you used to eat this, remember? How the heck did you forget?” One bite (and then a hundred later), and I had fallen in love all over again with the simplicity and purity of the dish. I was home again with my grandma.

Cooking the onions first

Comfort foods like tomato and egg often have different variations within the culture and in surrounding regions, and one that I have recently found and enjoyed has been Andrea Nguyen’s tomato egg drop soup. In Into The Vietnamese Kitchen, Nguyen discusses the origins and influences of many Vietnamese dishes, and it’s no doubt that many Vietnamese traditions and foods have strong Chinese influences.

The ingredients for the recipe are incredibly simple, little more than tomatoes, eggs, onions, and of course, a key Vietnamese ingredient that makes this soup Vietnamese, fish sauce. My favorite brand of Vietnamese fish sauce is this Three Crabs brand. Apparently the employees (who are not Vietnamese) at Hong Kong Supermarket near my apartment even know about this stuff; as I picked up a bottle of it in one of the aisles, one of the Chinese guys goes nuts and starts raving and raving about it in Chinese and how it’s the best of the best! I knew that already, though.

Three Crabs brand fish sauce

Use the freshest, reddest, most fragrant tomatoes you can find. If it smells like a tomato, then it will taste like a tomato. I’ve really been upset at the tomato industry for producing such tasteless “tomatoes” and almost gave up until my roommate Kumquat came home with some red beauties from Trader Joe’s. Thanks to her, I’m currently in love with these TJ’s baby Roma tomatoes. They are small, cute, and blazing red. The last two times I’ve made a trip there, I’ve left with at least three to four boxes of these babies. What can I say — I’m a fan.

TJ's baby roma tomatoes - the best!

Lastly, if you don’t have ground pork on hand (and I usually don’t), ground turkey makes a fine substitute. This soup really embodies the pure flavors of the egg and tomato. Adding the egg at the end lends the soup a really satisfying richness, as does the ground pork. It’s a healthy and refreshing first course to a multi-course Vietnamese dinner.

Stewing the tomatoes and onions

Tomato Egg Drop Soup / Canh cà chua trứng
Adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen
Serves 4 to 6 with 2 or 3 other dishes

•    1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
•    1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
•    3/4 pound very ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
•    3/4 teaspoon salt
•    1/3 pound ground pork coarsely chopped to loosen
•    4 cups water
•    2 eggs, beaten
•    5-6 springs cilantro, coarsely chopped for garnish (optional)
•    Black or white pepper

In a 4-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about four minutes, or until fragrant and soft. Add the tomatoes and salt, cover, and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the tomatoes have collapsed into a thick mixture. Stir occasionally and, if necessary, lower the heat to prevent the tomatoes from sticking or scorching.

Uncover and add the fish sauce and pork. Wield chopsticks or use a spoon to move the pork around the pan so that it breaks up into small pieces. This will make it possible to distribute the pork evenly among the bowls when serving. Add the water, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, using a ladle to skim and discard any scum that rises to the surface. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the flavors have developed and concentrated sufficiently to produce a rich broth. If you are not serving the soup right away, turn off the heat and cover.

Just before serving, return the soup to a simmer. Taste and add extra salt or fish sauce, if necessary. Turn off the heat. Pour the beaten egg onto the soup in a wide circle, and then stir gently to break it up into chiffon-like pieces. Ladle the soup into a serving bowl. Garnish with the cilantro and a generous sprinkle of pepper and serve immediately.

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Fresh blueberry buttermilk pancakes

I have always loved breakfast foods — the classic American ones that include omelettes and pancakes, ethnic morning nourishments like jook (rice porridge) and freshly pressed soybean milk, and the rich, decadent ones, like a simple cafe au lait and un pain au chocolat. As the first meal of the day, breakfast should be a cherished meal, one that makes you think, “Mmm, it’s great to be alive and start the day!” It sounds corny, but I really believe it.

Pancake ingredients

Too often people succumb to forgetting about breakfast, insisting that they don’t need to eat before they rush out the door, or just grabbing a cereal bar (I hate these!) or a banana (well, this is better since it’s a fruit). I’m not going to lie; most times when I haven’t had enough sleep and am in a hurry to get to work, I just eat a bowl of Kashi cereal, a banana, and leave the apartment. Why would I set aside 45 minutes of precious sleep in the morning to prepare steel-cut oats?

Incorporating dry ingredients with wet ingredients

But then I stumbled upon an article in a recent issue of Gourmet magazine that raved about a cookbook that was all about the first meal of the day. In The Breakfast Book, Marion Cunningham, in her own, tantalizing way, makes a case for breakfast and why we shouldn’t forgo the most important meal of the day. She includes a large array of recipes, including quick breads and yeast breads, custards and puddings (yes, for breakfast!), and of course, the beloved pancakes.

Frozen wild Boreal blueberries

I have tried about seven different pancake recipes from this book, and I will say now that all of them were delicious and incredibly simple. Contrary to popular belief, preparing your own pancake batter is very simple and easy, and if you prepare the batter the night before, which I’d recommend, it would even be easier than using a mix. And the taste of a pancake from a mix could never be compared to that made from scratch, but that should go without saying (no offense to those of you who are IHOP fans).

Bubbly on the top means ready for flipping

Of all of the pancake recipes I tried from the book, I must say that my favorite is not terribly unique or exotic – they’re the classic buttermilk pancakes. I guess some things are classic for a reason; they have just the right tang from the sour buttermilk and are soft, fluffy, and perfect with pure maple syrup. Cunningham’s recipe doesn’t use any sugar, but I like to add about two teaspoons for a very subtle sweetness. Blueberries make these pancakes even better; I use the frozen wild Boreal blueberries from Trader Joe’s since fresh blueberries are not in season right now. The easiest way to add berries to the pancakes is to add them as the first side of the pancake is being cooked. Once you see bubbles forming on the pancake tops, lightly sprinkle the blueberries evenly on top.

Adding the blueberries

Another tip for the pancakes: to ensure a light and fluffy texture, do not over-mix the batter. You want to mix the wet and the dry ingredients until just incorporated. If you see lumps, you can jump up and down in giggly glee because your pancake batter is good to go. This pancake recipe is perfect for making ahead of time — it keeps in the refrigerator for days.

pancakes - almost ready for eating

Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberries
Adapted from Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book
Yields about 9 pancakes

•    1 cup buttermilk
•    1 egg, room temperature
•    3 tablespoons melted butter, slightly cooled
•    3/4 cup all-purpose flour (or 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour)
•    1/2 teaspoon salt
•    1 teaspoon baking soda
•    2 teaspoons sugar
•    1/2 cup blueberries

Place the buttermilk, egg, and melted butter into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir briskly until the mixture is smooth and blended.

Stir together the flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar into the buttermilk mixture only until the dry ingredients are moistened — remember to leave lumps, and do not over-mix.

Grease the skillet lightly with butter and set to medium heat. Spoon out about 2 generous tablespoons per pancake. After about 1-2 minutes, you will see bubbles beginning to form on the pancake tops. Gently sprinkle blueberries on top of the pancakes and push down lightly. Then gently flip over with a spatula and cook the other side for about 1-2 minutes.

Serve with pure maple syrup and additional blueberries.

Sesame Seed Cake

I love sweets and have been known in my family to make all the cookies, cupcakes, and pies at our gatherings, but I’ve never been great at making cakes. The traditional cheesecake that my family always had around the holidays, one made with cottage cheese in place of cream cheese, was something that I made often during high school and college, but somehow, the center of the cake would always crack. Yes, it would taste great, but I wanted aethetics, too. So when I found out that professional bakers actually use a bain marie, or a water bath, I tried doing the same… which resulted in a complete mess; despite the three to four layers of aluminum foil I’d have wrapped around my springform pan, somehow water always managed to leak into my cake, resulting in the potential beauty dissolving into a big puddle once the spring was released.

I’ve also attempted to make flour-based cakes, like Dorie Greenspan’s tiramisu cake and a good handful of chocolate cakes, but the crumb would always turn out dry and dense. When I’d prepare these failed cakes for gatherings, my relatives would always smile and down large glasses of water or milk with their cake, smiling at me and insisting that “the frosting is delicious!” Well, at least I got one part right.

Eggs and vanilla extract in a yin-yang pattern

So when I saw this recipe for a sesame seed cake in Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert, I was a it hesitant to actually face my cake-making fear. Since my failed tiramisu and cheesecakes, I’ve only managed to get a steamed Chinese sponge cake right (that’s almost full proof for me. A recipe will follow in the near future). But I couldn’t resist trying out this cake. For one thing, I’d never heard of a cake that used sesame seeds (poppy seeds, yes, but sesame seeds? Nope). The more peculiar thing about this recipe is that it uses toasted sesame oil. I’ve always had sesame oil in my pantry for savory Asian dishes I’ve made, but this new use in cake had me intrigued.

Bottles of vanilla extract, sesame oil, and sesame seeds

I am a huge fan of sesame oil; my favorite brand is Kadoya. Whether it’s for savory dishes or for this sesame seed cake, stay away from the cheaper sesame/soybean oil blends, and be sure to buy a pure sesame oil. It should be a deep brown color. They’re most easily found at Asian supermarkets, where the oil will almost definitely be toasted. The nutty, sweet smell is almost unmistakable. Sesame seeds can also be purchased easily at Asian markets. Stay away from the containers that are imported from China, as those tend to have twigs and other foreign things in them. The ones from Korea, Japan, or right here in the U.S. are the ones you want to get, as these almost always have already been sorted.

Mixing initial ingredients for sesame seed cake

As with almost all other baked good recipes you will see, always remember to start out with all ingredients at room temperature. With liquids like milk or buttermilk, take them out of the refrigerator about an hour beforehand. With eggs, you can either take them out about an hour or two before you plan to beat them, or you can prepare a bowl of warm water and place the eggs in the bowl to sit. Once you pick up the eggs and they are no longer cold to the touch, you will know that they are ready. Eggs need to be at room temperature, especially for cake baking, because warmer eggs will whisk to higher volumes and will also ensure that the cake rises properly during baking.

Incorporating the dry with the wet

In this recipe, when folding the dry ingredients into the wet, only fold until just incorporated. Overbeating is one of the worst things you can do with a cake batter because it will inevitably result in a drier and potentially denser cake. I’ve always feared taking a bite into a cake I’ve made and tasting flour in my mouth, so that’s probably resulted in my unconsciously overbeating the batter.

Beaters covered in batter and sesame seeds

If I had followed the suggestions I listed above, perhaps I wouldn’t have had such terrible cake making experiences before. Luckily this time, the sesame seed cake turned out perfectly — evenly browned, well-flavored with a strong background of toasted sesame oil, and most importantly (at least, for me and my cake fears), moist! It’s a beautiful cake, flecked with black sesame seeds on the inside. The sesame seeds also add a pleasant crunch to each bite.

Maybe there will be more cakes in my kitchen since this one came out so well. I served it with a small scoop of Haagan Daaz ginger ice cream, but Medrich suggests that you serve it with her honeyed ice cream. Either way, it is yummy and something you should try if you need a change from the typical chocolate or yellow cake.

Sesame seed cake, cut

Sesame Seed Cake
from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert
makes one 8-inch round cake

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup toasted black sesame seeds
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a cake pan or a springform pan – I find the springform works really well. Make sure the pan has high enough sides as the cake really rises in the oven!

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the eggs together in a bowl with a whisk. Add the sesame oil and vanilla and thoroughly combine.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium for a few minutes to soften it up. Add the sugar and beat for several more minutes until it is light-colored and fluffy.

Add in the egg mixture a little at a time while the mixer is still running, letting it slowly combine over a couple of minutes.

Stop the mixer and pour in a third of the flour mixture, and beat just until combined. Scrape down the sides as necessary.

Add half the buttermilk and beat until combined.

Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, and finally the rest of the flour mixture with the sesame seeds. With each addition, beat it only until it is just incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool on the rack for a few minutes before unmolding. If you baked the cake in a regular cake pan, invert it onto the rack, and turn it right side up to finish cooling. Before serving, dust with powdered sugar.

This cake will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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Since the first morning I spent wandering around the streets of Shanghai three years ago, I’ve had a mild obsession with street food. It was my first time outside of the U.S., and really my first time ever seeing food prepared on the street — if you don’t count the pretzel and roasted nuts trucks in some areas of Los Angeles.

Despite all the warnings I had from teachers at the local university to my Lonely Planet guide about staying away from street food, it was hard to ignore the sizzling sounds of a batter being spread over flat griddles to make an eggy crepe (dan bing 蛋餅), or the sight of fresh soybeans being pressed to yield hot soybean milk, all coming from these tiny stalls densely lining the bustling streets of one of the most chaotic metropolitan areas in the world.

The Bund/Wai Tan, Shanghai, China

Being cognizant of American snobbery surrounding eating food in foreign lands, I tried my best to eat the same way locals ate, whether that meant eating food out of street stalls or going into tiny and dingy mom-and-pop type shops that were recommended to me by native Chinese friends I had made. It was exhilarating to see all the energy along the streets with people shouting their orders and street vendors quickly stir-frying these noodles or mixing up those sauces. In less than five minutes, a plate of yum could be ready for you to carry and take off wherever you’d like.

Although my experience in China was only in Shanghai and surrounding areas, being there helped me learn more about Chinese culture in general, as well as the prominence of street food in China. Many of the comfort foods that Chinese people who leave China crave and miss are ones that are prepared on the street. These treats, also known in Mandarin Chinese as xiao chi (小吃) or “little eats,” are generally made by vendors who each create a specialized snack, from spicy cold noodles to steamed dumplings to pudding-like bean curd (dou hua 豆花). In the past, street vendors would travel all over the cities or towns where they lived in China to get as much business as possible; it’s been said that in the early twentieth century, street vendors lived or died by the quantity of their food sold, so they consumed themselves with creating unique dishes that would keep people coming back.

Fresh mung bean sprouts

Fuchsia Dunlop, an East Asia Specialist at the BBC World Service, was the first non-Chinese educated at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu, China. After her culinary education in Sichuan, in 2001 she published a cookbook called Land of Plenty, the first-ever Chinese cookbook written by a Western author in English specifically on Sichuanese cuisine. Land of Plenty devotes an entire section to little eats, consisting of many noodle dishes, dumplings, sweets, and other dishes that can be seen being prepared on streets in Chengdu today.

Sauce ingredients

One of the street foods in the book that has most recently been prepared in my kitchen is the spicy cold noodles with chicken slivers. It’s a xiao chi that is distinctively Sichuanese. Thick, cold noodles are served with blanched bean sprouts, cooked chicken slices, and a complex, mouth-tingling sauce that is all at once sweet, salty, sour, hot, and numbing.

Spicy numbing sauce for noodles

The “numbing” sensation comes from the Sichuan pepper, or in Chinese, hua jiao 花椒,  which literally translated means “flower pepper.” It’s probably the most important and dominant condiment/spice in Sichuanese cooking. Before being roasted and ground, the Sichuan peppercorns look like this:

Whole Sichuan peppercorns - hua jiao

Once roasted whole, they are then ground finely and added to hot dishes, cold dishes, sauces, and dressings. Sichuan pepper’s strong scent is unmistakable — flowery and spicy at the same time. It adds a distinct taste to Sichuanese dishes and never fails to make your lips tingle after eating it. This is what the pepper looks like after being grounded:

Ground Sichuan pepper

In Chinese supermarkets, Sichuan peppercorns are often not labeled in English, so be sure to look out for these Chinese characters: 花椒.  One problem I’ve had with the peppercorns is that the twigs and leaves of the plant are often still attached to the peppercorns in the packages, so when taking them out to roast and grind, carefully sort through the peppercorns and remove the excess beforehand.

Putting lunch together

This dish makes a satisfying lunch for 2-3, or if you have a full pound of noodles, you could easily double the sauce ingredients and add more chicken if you’d like for a bigger crowd. In case you like heat but not too much of it, try to add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the chili oil to the sauce to start, and increase it if you’d like more of a kick. The list of ingredients for the sauce seems long, but all of the ingredients are extremely versatile and can be used in any type of Asian cooking. So don’t be afraid to buy them, as you will use them over and over again.

Cold noodles mixed with sauce and chicken

Spicy Cold Noodles with Chicken Slivers
ji si liang mian 雞絲涼麵

Adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty
Serves 2-3 as a main lunch dish

Noodles

  • About 1/2 pound fresh Shanghai-style wheat noodles (slightly thicker than spaghetti)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
  • 5 ounces bean sprouts
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, 2 chicken thighs, or some leftover chicken meat
  • 4 scallions thinly sliced, green parts only

Sauce/Seasonings

  • 2 tablespoons sesame paste, thinned with about 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Chinkiang or black Chinese vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground roasted Sichuan pepper 花椒
  • 2-3 tablespoons chili oil with chili flakes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil

Cook the noodles in a medium sized pot of boiling water until they are just al dente; take care not to overcook them. Rinse them with hot water from the kettle, then shake them in a colander and quickly spread them out to dry. Sprinkle over the oil and mix it in with chopsticks to prevent the noodles from sticking together.

Blanch the bean sprouts for a few seconds in boiling water, then refresh in cold water. Drain well. Squash the chicken breast or leftover chicken pieces slightly to loosen fibers, and tear or cut into slivers about 1/4-inch thick.

When the noodles and bean sprouts are completely cold, lay the bean sprouts in the bottom of your serving bowl or bowls. Add the noodles.

To serve, either combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and pour the mixture over the noodles, or just scatter them over one by one. Top the dish with a small pile of chicken slivers and a scattering of scallions. Allow your guests to toss everything together at the table.

Best Roast Chicken

A lot of people, including myself, find roasting a chicken a bit daunting. Maybe it’s the notion of cooking an entire animal that seems scary, or maybe it’s because in the U.S., it’s so easy to stop by any ol’ market and pick up any chicken part you want, cleaned, butchered, and packaged neatly for your culinary convenience. Who needs to cook an entire chicken when you could just get the individual parts that you like the most?

Chicken seasoned before roasting

But there really is an intrinsically satisfying feeling in preparing a whole chicken yourself. Few things are more pleasing than the smell of a whole bird roasting with butter and fresh herbs, wafting through your own home. It almost makes home feel… well, a little more like home.

And although individual chicken parts are so ubiquitous today, so are whole chickens in many varieties — hormone-free, free-range, cage-free, kosher, organic — the list goes on. With the chickens already deceased, de-feathered, and with the innards removed, it’s really not as scary as it seems. Plus, if you’re on a budget, it’s generally more economical to get a whole chicken than it is to just get breasts or thighs. And maybe it’s just me, but I love the idea of taking a chicken carcass and all the leftover bones to create homemade stock. Nothing in the world is better than a stock made at home.

Roasted chicken right from the oven

The methods of roasting chicken are quite abundant, but as I was doing research for my very first roast chicken, I wanted to make sure that I stuck with the methods that seemed the most acknowledged and embraced. Some of these tips include:

  • Use butter instead of oil to coat the outside of the chicken. Butter creates a more beautiful, evenly browned exterior. Plus, it’s yummy yummy. Who doesn’t love butter?
  • Make sure to put a good amount of butter inside the cavity of the chicken. Do NOT skip this step. It’s key to creating a moist bird.
  • Nix the twining. It just adds more work to roasting a chicken, and the goal here is to make roasting a chicken as painless as possible. So whenever you can eliminate a step that can enable you to do this in your sleep, go for it.
  • Season your bird well. Salt and pepper should not be tasted when you take bites into your food; they should simply enhance the natural flavor of whatever you are eating. Liberally season inside the cavity and the exterior.
  • If you can, make sure that you have a roasting rack for your chicken to sit on. The rack creates a separation between the chicken and the roasting pan, and this will enable not only even roasting but also a chicken that has a crispy exterior. No sogginess!
  • Use the drippings from the bottom of the pan to baste your chicken. You want to use as much of the chicken as possible to have the chicken-iest chicken experience.
  • Lastly, allow the bird to rest for about 30 minutes before cutting and serving. This way, the chicken will have time to retain its juices as well as even out its temperature and doneness.

So once you have roasted your chicken and it seems about ready, take it out of the oven, and take a cut right at the leg to see if the juices run clear. If the juices are clear, it means that the chicken is done. The juices should look like this:

Chicken juices running clear

We decided to serve our roast chicken with a chicken stock-based polenta and roasted brussel sprouts (we are BIG brussel sprout fans. For those who find these little mini cabbages revolting, we urge you to try them roasted, as roasting brings out the natural sweetness of brussel sprouts that goes completely unnoticed if only boiled or sauteed).

Our bird was quite lovely and was even more rewarding since it was our very first roast chicken. The breast meat was succulent, not even a tad dry. The dark meat proved even juicier, and the skin smelled fragrant from the garlic powder and thyme and had just the right crispness. Who ever thought that something so delicious could be this simple?

Roast chicken, roasted brussel sprouts, and polenta dinner

The Best Roast Chicken
Adapted from multiple sources, including Ina Garten, Tyler Florence, and Allrecipes.com.

  • 1 (approx. 3-4 lb) hormone-free whole chicken, giblets removed
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 5-6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 stalk celery, leaves removed
  • A handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1/2 bulb of garlic, cut in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Wash the chicken inside and out with cold water; thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Allow chicken to air dry either in your kitchen if it is cool enough, or in the fridge for about half an hour. We want a completely dry skin.

Once the chicken is completely dry, place her in a roasting pan and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle inside and out with 1 tablespoon of garlic powder.

Rub inside of the chicken with about 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Then sprinkle thyme on the chicken inside and out. Cut the celery into about 4 pieces and place in the chicken cavity with both halves of the lemon, parsley, and the half bulb of garlic.

Spread remaining 3-4 tablespoons of melted butter all over the outside of the chicken.

Bake uncovered for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, to a minimum internal temperature of 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). Remove from heat, and baste with the drippings from the bottom of the pan.

Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for about 30 minutes before serving.

Turkey meatballs and spaghetti

I don’t mean to offend anyone when I say this, but I don’t think I could ever live a meatless life. Sure, I could go days and even weeks without having a sliver of chicken or a bite of pork, but in the end I will always have cravings and go back to those things. As much as I like tofu and beans, sometimes they simply will not do.

I often joke with friends that I could never date, much less marry, a vegetarian. With a life partner, I’d want to share all my experiences all the way down to how amazing what I am eating is. If I can’t get my guy to understand why I am so obsessed with my favorite noodles or dessert, what else could he understand? What would an omnivore’s life be without knowing the taste of phở, a rich and complex Vietnamese noodle soup flavored by beef and oxtail bones, or a humble roast chicken, beautifully browned and seasoned?

I don’t want to know. Please excuse my desire for ignorance.

Meatball ingredients Meatball ingredients incorporated

Everyone has their own comfort foods depending on the culture in which they were brought up. For me, it’s a mix of Chinese, Vietnamese, and American foods — some of them include jook, a rice porridge often made with homemade chicken stock and cuts of chicken, among other toppings; phở, the beef noodle soup I just mentioned, and meatloaf, especially the ones that my dad always made when I was growing up. He often made them with a mix of different meat — sometimes it would be turkey and beef; other times it would be turkey, pork, and beef. It was constantly changing depending on what we had available in the fridge.

Mixing meatball ingredients

So I think my dad would be excited to hear that we recently made our own turkey meatballs and spaghetti. Making meatballs is much like making a meatloaf or a burger patty; the only real difference is the shape. The first time we used Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs and Spaghetti recipe, we used a mix of beef, pork, and lamb ground meat (one pound, half pound, and half pound, respectively), but since we wanted to reduce our red meat intake for last week, we opted to do all-turkey meatballs.

Yes, these didn’t have the same “wow!” factor as the tri-meat meatballs did, but these offered their own deliciousness, one that puts frozen or store-bought meatballs to shame. There’s simply no comparison. These turkey babies are lighter than light, almost airy. Each bite is soft and almost sponge-like. The addition of the chopped parsley as well as the freshly grated parmesan cheese also adds a complexity and freshness to the meatballs that you wouldn’t find in a package of meatballs you’d pick up at the local supermarket.

Tomato sauce ingredients

Some tips for making these meatballs: make sure to use the full amount of seasoning – NO skimping on the salt or pepper! The purpose of adding seasonings is to enhance the natural flavor of the meat, and two teaspoons of salt does just that for two pounds of turkey meat. We used white turkey meat, but you could easily use fattier ground turkey meat if you’d like. I bought two pounds of white ground turkey from the local Trader Joe’s, and it seems that every time when I am stir-frying it or shaping the ground meat into something, it tends to be a lot gooey-er and sticky than other ground turkey that I’ve worked with. Has anyone had the same experience with TJ’s white ground turkey?

Meatballs before frying

We had no store-bought bread at home, just the homemade challah (poor us, right?) I had made the day before, so we threw some slices of that into the food processor for our bread crumbs. We also used whole grain spaghetti because we like our whole grains and wheat. We nixed Ina’s tomato sauce recipe because we preferred Mario Batali’s basic sauce recipe; his recipe is a lot lighter in texture, not too thick, and seemed to go better with the turkey meatballs.

frying meatballs

stirring the turkey meatballs in sauce

Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti
Meatballs adapted from Ina Garten; Tomato sauce adapted from Mario Batali.
Serves 5-6.

Meatballs:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh white bread crumbs (about 4.5 slices, crusts removed)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil

Tomato Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 1/2 medium carrot, finely grated
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
  • Salt
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

Spaghetti:

  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

Place the ground meat, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You should have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.

In the same skillet as above, heat the olive oil for the sauce over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt. Add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes if desired.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


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  • itsgrant: I want to goooo! Me next vacation, hopefully
  • Jesslyn: Thank you so much for posting this! My husband (who spent several years in Korea) and I have been searching for a good recipe that will produce Ho Duc
  • Didi: I have been searching everywhere for a recipe for this dish and this was spot on!! Thanks for making me and my boyfriend VERY happy :)

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