Monday, January 31, 2011

Chinese New Year


My attempt at one of my favorite Chinese bakery items - a cha siu bao (baked roast pork bun). This one is filled with beef and Japanese curry sauce since I had a hard time finding ground pork in an American supermarket, but next time, I will definitely go all the way authentic. Don't you just want to bite it?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Macaron Obsession


Simple almond macarons with home made lemon curd filling.


I never knew how easy lemon curd is to make! Some recipes call for butter, but really, why do you need butter? Save a few calories here, so you can eat that creamy mac and cheese later.

Simply mix in a small saucepan on low heat 1/4 cup sugar with the juice and zest of 3-4 lemons. When the sugar is melted, temper in 3 egg yolks (and you will use the whites for your macarons which is perfect!), and stir slowly until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let cool, voila! Recipe courtesy of

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

French Macarons with Rasberry Jam


Despite the gloomy, rainy weather and my all day headache, one thing has managed to make me happy - I made macarons! In my months of research, this seems to be an intimidating recipe for a lot of cooks and bakers. The recipe looks simple enough and has very few ingredients, but for a perfectionist like myself, the idea of not being able to whip up the egg whites to a satiny finish, or pipe perfectly round circles, or a list of other potential problems is enough reason to make one hesitate until exactly the right moment to attempt them. But today I was ready. I used Martha Stewart's recipe because 1) Reviews made the success rate sound high and 2) the measurements were in ounces, not grams like 99% of the macaron recipes out there.


I bought my almond meal at Trader Joe's and the almonds are ground with the skins on, which creates a flecked cookie, which is fine by me. My pastry bag/tip setup was not ideal (no round tip, argh!!) so my first batch came out very lumpy. (The photo above is my second try.) I slightly undercooked the cookies to prevent them from browning and discoloring, but either way they still tasted deliciously sweet, like I remember from my first macaron in Tokyo. Yes, the Japanese love their French sweets, and food, and just about everything else.

Lacking ingredients to create proper buttercream or chocolate filling, I opted for a simple spread of raspberry jam. Though I could just eat them as is, and I did eat quite a few in celebration of creating a successful macaron - phew! Now to study some more colors/flavor combinations for next time.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Spaghetti Carbonara


Hope everyone's new year is off to a good start! If good is busy, then mine has been good, since I have a few dishes and photos waiting to be posted. Starting off with one of my all-time favorite dishes from Italy, if not the whole world, is spaghetti carbonara. This is one dish I've made so many times and tried so many variations, from Giada's to Lidia's, that I've come up with my own recipe.

4 oz. prosciutto or pancetta or just regular old bacon if neither is available, cut into strips.
8 oz. spaghetti (or any pasta, but I like the classic shape)
2-3 whole eggs (sometimes I just use egg yolks but then you have leftover egg whites, arg!)
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced fine
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
Chicken stock (optional)
1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
Fresh ground black pepper
Olive Oil

Carbonara is such a simple recipe - what makes it better is the order you prepare the ingredients. One thing I usually stay away from is adding cream, it's not necessary nor the traditional way you would find it in a Italy. The creaminess will come from the eggs and the cheese, who needs cream?

Set a large pot filled with enough water for the pasta to boil.

In a large non-stick pan, heat about two teaspoons of olive oil (if you're using fatty pancetta or bacon, you don't even need oil). Add your sliced/diced meat and cook on medium-high until it's nice and brown.

Next add the garlic and onion and continue to sauté until the onions are translucent and the garlic is slightly browned. To add even more flavor, you can add about half a cup of chicken stock, and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove the browned bits. Turn heat to low and reduce the stock by half. You want it to look like a light sauce, not a lot of liquid.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to box directions.

In a little bowl, whisk the eggs, add the grated parmesan cheese and black pepper to your taste preference.

Once pasta is cooked, drain (reserving half a cup of pasta water to thin out sauce if it's too thick). Add pasta to frying pan and turn off heat. Finally, pour in egg/cheese mixture and quickly stir into pasta. This is supposed to cook the eggs. If you are worried about salmonella, you could use pasteurized eggs or those eggs in a container, but I like my eggs in their natural form and couldn't live without a runny egg yolk, so I take the risk, and haven't gotten sick yet! If you feel the sauce is too sticky, add a little pasta water, but it usually doesn't need any.

Plate, and sprinkle some more parmesan cheese and black pepper on top, pour yourself a glass of red wine and enjoy!