Friday, December 26, 2014

Korean Seafood Pancakes

Last Year's Post: Spanakopita
Two Years Ago:  Chorizo and Mushroom Fideua

I can't seem to get enough Korean food lately.  I love the bold, clean flavors and particularly like adapting heavy recipes to be lighter but with the same flavor profile (for example, substituting ground turkey for beef in Korean Sliders).  I was attracted to these Korean Seafood Pancakes because they're already light and make a fast and easy (but exotic) weekday dinner.  The other thing that I liked was that this recipe is adapted to use ingredients commonly available in American grocery stores so I didn't have to go buy special items at the Asian market  (which I like to do, but there's a limit to how much stuff I can fit in the pantry).

Start to finish, they take maybe 30 minutes at most, and 10 minutes of that is spent prepping the vegetables into thin and pretty slivers, making the dipping sauce, and prepping the shrimp.

After prepping the vegetables and mixing a simple batter, all that's left is to cook each pancake for about 4 minutes.  You can keep the cooked pancakes warm on a plate in the oven, or serve them at room temperature - they're equally good both ways.  The pancakes may tear somewhat as you flip them, but don't worry - you'll cut the pancakes up for dipping anyway.

My favorite part is that you can use all shrimp, or substitute part or all of the shrimp with lump crab or lobster meat.  If you decide to add lobster, take the raw meat out of a lobster tail and cut it into relatively thin pieces similar to the shrimp so they'll cook at the same rate.  The pancakes cook for 3 minutes on one side and 1 minute on the other, which is enough time to cook the thin seafood pieces completely.

Don't be scared by the amount of jalapeno.  The first time I made the sauce, I cut the jalapeno in half just to be safe, and the sauce wasn't even remotely spicy - I needed both jalapenos to give it a kick.  However, jalapenos can vary widely in their heat, so my advice is to taste the dipping sauce with one jalapeno and then add the second as needed.

printable recipe
Korean Seafood Pancakes
Serves 4

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 ¾ cups water
¼ cup vegetable oil
4 large green onions, halved crosswise and cut into very thin strips
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into very thin strips
1 large jalapeno, halved, cored and seeded, cut into very thin strips
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and halved lengthwise (or substitute lump crab or lobster meat pieces for all or part of the shrimp)

For the Dipping Sauce
½ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 green onions, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 ½ teaspoons toasted Asian sesame oil

To make the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and salt.  Whisk the egg with the water, then whisk into the flour mixture until smooth.

In an 8-inch non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add one quarter each of the green onions, red pepper and jalapeno.  Add one quarter of the shrimp, scattering them evenly in the pan.  Pour about 1/3 cup of the batter evenly over everything, tilting the pan to spread it.  Cook until the bottom is browned, about 3 minutes.

Using a large spatula, carefully flip the pancake (don’t worry if it tears) and cook on the other side for about 60 seconds, until lightly browned.  Slide the pancake onto a plate and make 3 more pancakes in the same way.

Cut into quarters (or medium pieces) and serve with the dipping sauce.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cheddar Olives

Last Year's Post: Brie & Pomegranate Toasts
Two Years Ago:  Fondue

Cheddar olives were first popular a while back, and then they sort of went away for some reason.  I've started seeing them on restaurant menus again, and for good reason - they're perfect appetizers or tapas with beer or wine, and they're great on a cheese board or charcuterie board.  They can be prepared in advance and refrigerated or even frozen until time to bake, and they need to sit for 30 minutes after baking so you don't need to worry about baking them while your guests are around.

The one issue they used to have is that the cheddar dough tended to slide off when they were baked.  Leave it to the obsessed people at Cook's Illustrated to test ten jillion variations until they found one that solves the issue.  Having made cheddar olives before, I was a little surprised at the amount of dough they called for in their recipe; it seemed like you'd end up with a cheese biscuit with an olive center rather than an olive with a thin cheese exterior.  So, I decided to do my own test by doing half the olives their way, and half using a smaller amount of dough.

Starting back at the beginning, there are two important parts to making this recipe work well - using a good extra-sharp cheddar, and refrigerating the prepared olives before baking to allow the dough to set. The recipe calls for small pimento-stuffed green olives, but I've also made it with pitted black olives.  Green olives are sharper and saltier, black olives are milder.  You could even have fun and use some garlic-stuffed olives from the olive bar, but you'll need to increase the amount of dough if they're big. You typically find the smaller stuffed olives in jars; I found a 5.75 ounce jar of stuffed Manzanilla olives that ended up containing 48 olives, which perfectly used up my half-and-half recipe experiment's worth of dough.  If you use the lesser amount of dough per olive (which we preferred) you could probably do more than 50 olives.

You drain and roll the olives around on a towel to dry them, then grate the cheese and mix the dough in a food processor.  You shape the dough around the olive by first gathering about a teaspoonful in your hand, then roll it into a ball and flatten it into a disk.


 Place the olive on the disk and pull the dough up around the olive, then roll it around in your hand again until it forms a perfect little ball.  After you make one or two it becomes easy and it's actually kind of fun.  And magically, your hands don't even get all sticky.

Refrigerate for at least an hour, then bake and let rest for 30 minutes before serving.  Or, if you want to freeze them for later, freeze them separated on a plate or baking sheet before placing in a plastic bag so they don't all stick together.  You can bake them later directly from frozen which is really handy.

 In the first picture below, the olives with the larger amount of dough are on the top half of the baking sheet.  On the cooling rack, the bigger ones are on bottom part.  And on the picture at the top of this post, you can see the difference between the two cut olives.  As I said, we really preferred the version with less dough - it lets the olive be the star. So, I adjusted the recipe accordingly.

Cheddar Olives
Makes approximately 50 olives

50 small pimento-stuffed green olives, rinsed (about 6 ounce jar)
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 7 pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Spread olives on a dish towel and roll around to dry.  Pulse flour, paprika, pepper and cayenne in food processor until combined, about 3 pulses.  Add cheddar and butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 12 pulses.  Add egg, water, and Worcestershire and process until dough ball forms, about 20 seconds.

Working with 1 heaping teaspoon dough and 1 olive at a time, roll dough between your hands to form a ball, then flatten into a disk.  Place olive in the center of the disk and fold the dough around it, then roll it around in your hands again to make a uniform ball.  Place cheddar olives on a large parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 24 hours (or freeze to bake later).

Preheat oven to 350d.  (If the cheddar olives are close together on your baking sheet, remove half and bake half at a time or use two sheets so they’re spaced at least 1 ½” apart).  Bake until bottoms are well browned and tops are golden, 16 to 18 minutes (if baking from frozen, increase time to about 25 minutes).  Transfer olives to a wire rack after baking and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kale and Pancetta Salad

Last Year's Post: Sausage and Cheddar Breakfast Strata
Two Years Ago:  Greek Phyllo Wraps with Taztziki

Kale is a superfood and a great addition to your fall and winter food rotation to balance out the heavier foods we tend to eat at this time of the year.  It's sturdy so it holds up well in a salad, and its slight bitterness is offset in this recipe by the sweetness of the fruit and maple syrup, plus the creaminess of the blue cheese.  The pecans add a nice crunch and toastiness.  I especially like to have spiced pecans on hand for salads or rice dishes, because they add a little kick.  If you don't feel like making spiced pecans, you can buy some at Trader Joe's or can use plain toasted pecans (or walnuts) instead.

You can substitute regular bacon for pancetta, and dried cranberries or apricots for the currants. You could even go vegetarian and leave out the pancetta. The recipe calls for fresh apples or Asian pears, so I used one of each.  If you're not familiar with Asian pears, they look like a golden apple and have the crispness of an apple with the flavor of a pear.  They've available in most grocery stores, and are delicious.  Try one for fun.

This salad is definitely substantial enough to be a main dish and it's a welcome change from big heavy dinners and sweets.

 printable recipe
Kale and Pancetta Salad
Serves 4

1/3 cup olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, diced
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small head radicchio, shredded
8 ounces kale, stems discarded, leaves shredded
2 Fuji or Honeycrisp apples, or 2 Asian pears (or combination)
¾ cup toasted pecans (or spiced pecans, see below)
1/3 cup dried currants
½ cup crumbled blue cheese

Combine the olive oil and pancetta in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until pancetta is golden and crispy, 8-10 minutes.  Strain the pan drippings into a small bowl to cool and leave the pancetta off to the side to cool.  When the pan drippings are cool, add the vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon, salt and pepper to the pan drippings and whisk well.

Quarter and core the apples or pears, then cut into thin pieces.  Combine the radicchio, kale and apples or pears in a large bowl.  Add the dressing little by little, and toss to combine, until the salad is well dressed.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with pecans, currants and blue cheese.

Spiced Pecans
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
½ cup sugar
1 large egg white
2 cups whole pecans

Preheat oven to 300d.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Whisk the egg white until foamy, then whisk in the salt, pepper, paprika and sugar.  Stir in pecans.  Spread pecans in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 250d and rotate the pan.  Bake 10 more minutes, then immediately spread in a single layer on clean parchment paper.  Let cool before serving or storing. 

Pecans will keep up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature, or may be frozen.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bang Bang Turkey

Last Year's Post: Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Two Years Ago:  Rum Cake

I came across this recipe recently in no less than the esteemed New York Times Cooking site, and was immediately intrigued by the unusual name so I of course had to try it.  Was I glad I did!  It's completely delicious and very healthy.  It turns out Bang Bang Turkey or Chicken is Szechuan; the name refers to the technique of pounding the poultry before shredding (although here you'll use leftover turkey or chicken, no pounding required).  The poultry is served with a satay-type sauce, vegetables, and lettuce or noodles.  I adapted the recipe slightly to serve the turkey over crunchy Napa cabbage rather than lettuce and added additional garnishes of peanuts, radishes and jalapenos.

It's a great way to use up leftover shredded turkey or chicken and has a totally different flavor profile than the usual carb-laden turkey dinner. (The same reason I like to make Middle-Eastern inspired turkey and couscous after the holidays.)  The sauce is dark, complex and slightly spicy.  Although it calls for two Asian ingredients you may not have on hand - Chinese chili-bean sauce and Chinese black vinegar - there are easy substitutes you can use if you can't find them at your local store and don't want to make a trip to the Asian market.  Chinese chili-bean sauce is hot, so if you can't find it you could use a sweet or garlic bean sauce with a little hot sauce.  Be sure to add substitutions sparingly (especially hot ones) and taste before adding more. Come to think of it, that's a good idea for any hot ingredient in a recipe you haven't tried before.  For the Chinese black vinegar, use one part balsamic vinegar to one part rice vinegar to three parts water (for this recipe, that means one teaspoon of each vinegar and one tablespoon of water).  I used substitutions for both and found the sauce to be a little too spicy for my taste, so I toned it down with a little additional peanut butter and it was perfect.

The cucumber and mint help cool things down, and all the veggies add bright fresh crunch.  If you're not familiar with Napa cabbage, this is what it looks like.  It's a little more mild and delicate than normal green cabbage.

The easiest way to clean it is to shred it crosswise first, then place in a colander, rinse and let drain, shaking to get off as much water as possible.  You can also put the shredded cabbage on a clean towel and pat it dry - you just don't want watery cabbage or the sauce won't stick.

The salad is very easy to make - stir together a sauce, slice up some veggies, and assemble.

The Lawyer and I literally inhaled it, it was that good.

printable recipe
Bang Bang Turkey
Serves 4

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons Chinese chili-bean sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons Chinese black vinegar

For the salad:
6 cups shredded Napa cabbage, rinsed and drained well
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
½ English cucumber, sliced crosswise
4 radishes, sliced
4 cups cooked shredded turkey
2 green onions, sliced crosswise
½ cup coarsely chopped peanuts
1 red jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced for garnish (optional)

To prepare the sauce, combine sauce ingredients with 2 tablespoons cold water and mix until smooth.  Set aside.

Divide cabbage among serving plates and top with cilantro and mint.  Drizzle 4-5 tablespoons of sauce on top. Arrange cucumber and radishes around the sides of the cabbage.

In a bowl, combine turkey with 4 tablespoons of sauce and toss until evenly coated.  Mound the turkey in the middle of each salad and top with chopped peanuts, green onions and optional jalapeno slices.

Serve with any remaining sauce in a small bowl to pass at the table.