When Italian home-cooked meal pictures start popping up frequently on my Instagram ; this means my dear old friend James is back in town for a visit; we always cook together wonderful rustic Italian dishes, and share with our group of friends, now aptly named Italian Supper Club.
Two evenings of fun and laughter with our friends; wonderful food and great company, Grazie everyone (OO)
Here are some of our highlights:
Antipasti (Mortadella, Parma di prosciutto, Grilled eggplant all from Cioffi’s),
Piave Mezzano Cheese (from Les Amis Du Fromage on East Hastings, a cow’s milk cheese)
Blood Orange, Fennel and Olive Salad (Slice thinly and layered, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt)
This is honestly the best artichoke dish I’ve ever had, and peeling artichokes is not as difficult as we imagine !!
Lemon and dill Brill sole (Fresh brill sole (bone in), lemon, olive oil, fresh dill – fish from Seafood City in Granville Island)
Groceries for Dinner II:
What is that can? Salted Anchovies (Available at Cioffi’s and Bosa Foods)…ready to be transformed..
Anchovies in Sabina olive oil, garlic and red chili pepper flakes , served with French Butter and crusted bread – heavenly! Thanks to my hubby and buddy James, they did most of the cleaning – salted anchovies cleaned in white wine vinegar, de-boned (removing the tail and dorsal) and layered in sealed glass container with extra virgin olive oil (we used the Sabina DOP from Italy, you need an excellent quality oil), a little red pepper chili flakes and garlic slices)
Roast Pork Belly (Coarse salt, sage, rosemary and five peppercorn): despite the initial mix up with the temperature (Celsius and Fahrenheit Difference LOL), the roast pork belly was very succulent and skin was thin and crispy.
Pasta Ceci (Chickpeas cooked with sofrito (onion, celery and carrots) and Gnocchi Sardi Pasta) – (dried chickpeas were used – soaked overnight)
Italian Supper Club I: Here’s the very delicious Artichoke and Trofie Pasta Recipe; courtesy of my friend’s James’ Italian friend Giampiero ; Grazie and Mangiamo!
Ingredients: 2 Lemons 4 to 5 Artichokes (firm, tight, green, preferably Romanesco type)2 to 3 cloves of garlic, peeled 1 to 2 tsp Peperoncino (red chili pepper) flakes, 2 to 3 Anchovies (preserved in oil), 1-2 cups Warm Chicken soup stock (homemade or store-bought*), 1 cup dry white wine, 500 gr Trofie dry pasta, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese, 3 to 4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, sea salt (for pasta cooking and seasoning).
*Vegetarian stock can replace chicken stock to make this dish vegetarian; chicken or vegetarian stock cubes can be used also. Anchovies are used to “season” the dish so adjust the salt accordingly (OO).
TIPS: This recipe serves 5 (100g pasta each as an appetizer); the usual size 500 g package of pasta is good for 5 to 6 people, depends on what is being used to go with it.
We used the same recipe, omit the pasta and turn the artichokes into antipasti; we just quartered the artichokes and serve it room temperature. The lemon water prevents oxidation; it also removed the somewhat “muddy” flavor of artichokes and add brightness to the dish. Trofie pasta is selected as the shape goes with the sliced artichokes.
Zest the two lemons and reserve the zest in a small bowl for later use.
Prepare a large bowl with cold water. Cut the two zested lemons in half and carefully squeeze the juice into the water being careful not to include the seeds. Drop in the seedless peels in as well. The lemon water is to prevent the artichokes to oxidize.
3. Using a paring knife, carefully clean and trim the artichokes, pulling away the dark and hard outer leaves. Cut off the end of the stem, slice away the darker green outer layer of the stem. Carefully pare away any remaining dark green layer between the peeled stem and the edge of the base. Cut off about 1/3 to a half of the pointy leaf ends. Be careful when paring and not to cut yourself.
4. Slice the trimmed artichoke in half lengthwise and then into quarters and carefully remove the hairy choke, pulling out any pointy interior leaves in the process. Drop the trimmed artichoke (carciofi in Italian) in the cold lemon water and repeat the process until completed. When all of the have been properly trimmed and quartered, take each quarter and slice thinly lengthwise, returning the sliced artichokes into the acidulated water immediately.
5. Put a large pot of salted water (sea salt) on to boil.
6. Warm the chicken / vegetarian stock in the sauce pan; keep it in low simmer (this step will be omitted if you are using chicken /vegetarian stock cube and those can be added directly into the pan for flavoring).
7. Using low heat, add 2 (to 3 TBS) olive oil to a large saute pan or wok (in Italy they have a large rounded pan with a handle called a Salta pasta); gently saute the garlic and peperoncino (red pepper flakes).
8. Add the drained artichoke slices and raise the heat to medium, Stir constantly (without breaking the artichokes). After 2 to 3 minutes, add the anchovies to the side of the pan, carefully mashing them so that they completely dissolve in the oil.
9. Add the warm soup stock a little at a time (when cooking always add warm stock to avoid temperature fluctuations) and stir in the white wine. The stock will add another level of flavor to the artichokes; let hte mixture simmer in low heat. The artichokes will absorb the liquid, you don’t want the sauce to be “watery”.
10. While sauce is simmering, throw the trofie pasta in to the boiling water and cook for at least one to two minutes less than indicated on the instructions. Do not Toss the pasta water!
11. Reduce the heat a bit lower (medium low) for the artichokes, cover and cook until the artichokes are almost tender. They should be al dente by the time the pasta is ready. Taste the artichokes and see if they need any salt, the anchovies should be enough for flavoring, otherwise add a little salt if needed.
12. Using a strainer or a spider to lift the al dente pasta out of the cooking water and toss into the pan with the artichokes. Add a ladle or two of the pasta cooking water (acqua di cottura), stir and fold gently to ensure the water mostly evaporates. The cooking water is what makes the sauce creamy!
13. Add a couple of handfuls of grated parmesan and pecorino cheese to the artichoke /pasta mix. Stir gently to integrate the cheese with pasta, then serve hot in individual bowls. Top each with some of the lemon zest, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and more of the grated cheese if desired. Mangiamo!
Here are some of the dishes which I have been cooking at home in September! Autumn is definitely my favourite cooking season (OO)
This month I am featuring three recipes which you may have seen on my Instagram account @mygoldenapron
Follow me for more recent updates; remember always adjust the seasoning and ingredients according to you and your loved ones dietary needs, and the most important ingredient, COOK with LOTS of LOVE and PATIENCE (OO).
Italian style Tomato, Green beans and Potato Salad (Adapted from September 2016 edition of Food and Wine)
I have adapted this simple and nutritious recipe from last September’s Food and Wine magazine; every six months when my dear friend James return from Italy to Canada for a visit, I always go through an Italian cooking phase!
Ingredients and preparation: You can change the produce according to seasonality; I find the balsamic vinaigrette works very well with savoy cabbage and brussels sprouts, so use your imagination and work with the flavours.
1/2 pound baby potatoes: In medium saucepan, covered with cold water and bring to a boil, add a pinch of sea salt and simmer over medium low heat until potatoes are tender. Drain and let cool, then slice in half.
1/2 pound green beans (or any other colourful beans you can find at your local market) – trim the ends; bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the beans and a pinch of sea salt and blanch until the beans are crisp yet tender, under 2 minutes. Drain and transfer beans to ice bath to cool. Drain again and dry thoroughly.
1 whole shallot – thinly sliced, you can use red onions or add more shallots
1 -2 ears of fresh corn: remove the husk (you can freeze and save it for later use to make vegetable broth) and silk, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add corn , cover the saucepan and return it to a boil. Cook until corn is tender; drain and let cool. Place the corn on a clean cutting board, trim one end of the corn so it stands flat, use a knife to slice the kernels off the cob.
1 Tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chiffonade (thin strips) of fresh basil and 1/4 cup chiffonade (thin strips) of fresh parsley
1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
In a large mixing bowl, whisk 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of honey (optional). Add the potatoes, beans, tomatoes, corn, shallots and capers and toss gently. Fold in the basil and parsley, season with salt and pepper.
*To increase our vegetable intake, I added some mixed greens to the dish. When making a vinaigrette, use a good quality extra virgin olive oil.
A Healthier Baked Pork Chop “Rice” (with cauliflower, carrot, rice) with homemade tomato sauce with onions, red and green pepper:
Baked pork chop rice is one of my favorite childhood dish, I made a version of this Hong Kong style dish using boneless pork loin (from one of my favourite butcher shop Petes Meats crusted in toasted panko (panko precooked before breading the pork, method adapted from Ms. Namiko Chen’s Just One Cookbook method)
Prepare the Panko Crusted Pork:
Preheat the oven to 350 F (place oven rack on top).
I have chosen a good quality pork and pound it evenly, prepare the toasted panko (1 cup panko and 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat two pork loins) – Combine the oil and panko in a frying pan, and toast the panko over medium heat, stir once in a while to ensure all panko bits are toasted until golden brown and evenly. Set aside and let cool down, keep 1 to 2 teaspoons aside and use as “sprinkle” when ready to bake the dish.
Let the toasted panko cool before you start coating the pork loins. Coat the pork loin one at a time: dip pork loin into beaten egg mixture, make sure you get rid of the excess egg mixture.
Using your dry hand, coat the loins with toasted panko. Lightly brush the flakes to cover the pork loin, then lightly press the panko flakes, make sure they adhere and the fillet is coated evenly. Place the coated pork loins on the baking sheet. Baked the pork loins until 3/4 ways cooked through (approximately 8 – 9 minutes). Remove from the oven.
Prepare the cauliflower, carrot and rice combination: I do not have specific measurements for this recipe, however for the two of us, I have prepared one cup of cooked rice (I used Japanese Haiga rice), 1 cup of finely chopped cauliflower, 1 small carrot (finely chopped) – First I cooked the rice in the rice cooker, when it is ready, remove from rice cooker and let it cool (you can use “overnight rice”). In a frying pan, add 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil), sautéed the cauliflower (you will need to add a little water otherwise it will burn, you will need to cover pan for a short time to “steam” and soften the cauliflower), add carrot when cauliflower is half-cooked, add the cooked rice and a pinch of sea salt (season to taste), mix “cauliflower rice” and rice very well, when vegetables are cooked through, remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare the Tomato sauce: You can use canned tomato sauce and add onions, red and green pepper. For my sauce, I used 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil to sautéed three medium size San Marzano tomatoes (I got from the Farmer’s Market, they are so flavorful: chopped and seeded), you can use more tomatoes if you want to make more sauce), 1/2 to 1 cup filtered water and a clove of finely chopped garlic. Using medium low heat, cook the mixture until tomatoes are soft. Turn off heat, working in small batches, spoon mixture into blender, remove the centre cap from the lid of the blender. Cover the lid with a folded clean dishcloth and hold it down when you are blending. Repeat until you are done.
Using the same sauce pan, add another 1/2 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil to sautéed one chopped (bite size) onion until slightly caramelized. Add one chopped red pepper (thin sliced) and one chopped green pepper (thin sliced), cook for 1 minute, return puree tomato sauce to pan, mix well and using low heat, simmer until sauce is thickened (20 to 25 minutes), season with sea salt to taste.
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Using an oven proof casserole or baking dish, spoon the “rice” in the bottom, then add a layer of the tomato and pepper sauce, place the panko crusted pork loin, then spoon more sauce and cover the pork loin, make sure you have some onions on top, and sprinkle the remaining toasted panko. Baked in the oven for 8 to 12 minutes, or longer if you want the sauce to brown nicely, remember the pork loin must cook through.
***You can use the “broil” feature to really brown the sauce, cheese can be added to achieve a “bubbling” effect.
***The Extra Virgin Olive oil which I use for sauteed or stir fry dishes is suitable for everyday cooking usage.
Shiso Lemon Water: Recipe from YouTube “Food Video”
Since last year I started watching the “Food Video” channel on YouTube; this channel is based in Shanghai, China and feature some professional and home chefs.This channel is so much fun to watch: the videos are short and stylish; the cooking demonstrations and instructions are simple to understand.
Do you like shiso (perilla leaves)? It is commonly used in Taiwanese and Japanese cooking, particularly used to flavor and pickled plums, and often it will appear on your sashimi order. If you have read my other posting (August 2017: Cheesecake and Salad Rolls with Cooking Buddies), my friend Phung has shown us to add shiso leaves to homemade salad rolls; I have also used shiso in my duck breast dish (September 2014 posting).
Shiso has its medicinal benefits and two recipes are featured on this video: the one I have tried is a very refreshing drink, a great digestive aid and helps to reduce the “dampness” (Chinese medicine term) in your body. The flavor is very subtle and drizzle of honey is used to sweeten the drink. When the lemon juice is added to the purple shiso water, it changes into a very pretty pink colour.
I have made this drink a few times and I really enjoyed it! You only need three ingredients: fresh purple shiso leaves, lemon juice and a little honey (I used a drizzle of manuka honey).
Below is a translation of the recipe:
In a large sauce pan, add 80 grams of chopped purple shiso leaves to 1 litre of filtered cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Set aside and let it cool.
Add 50 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, the shiso water will start to turn “pink”.
Add a drizzle of honey as sweetener.
You can drink as is or add ice / ice water if you prefer the drink to be slightly diluted. Enjoy (OO)
I have been following Ms. Sonoko Sakai the last while on Instagram since I came across photos of her soba making workshops; it is on my “bucket list” to make it to LA one day to attend her classes and learn how to make soba You can imagine how ecstatic I was when I read Francis Lam’s article “Sonoko Dreams of Soba” in March edition of Saveur; there is was..a beautiful photo of her soba salad with lemon-miso vinaigrette, and it has all the flavors which we love: lemon, miso and ginger! Since I don’t know how to make the noodles, I used packaged organic soba; it is still a little chilly here in Vancouver, at this time I prefer to have a warm salad so I lightly sautéed some of the vegetables, and added different ingredients to our liking and dietary needs. Ms. Sakai, thank you very much for the inspiration; I just have to fly to LA to take your soba workshop sometime soon.
Ingredients (serves 4):
For the salad: Small Radicchio leaves (about 6 to 8 pieces), 3 to 4 stalks of kale rabe*, 16 small variety of cherry tomatoes (roasted)*, 2 small carrot (peeled), 1 medium English cucumber (thinly sliced crosswise), 50 g (about 1/4 package) of sugar snap peas, green onion (1 stalk, finely chopped), a package of organic buckwheat noodle (200g, you can use less noodle), drizzle of olive oil
For the dressing: 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 1/2 Tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon white miso paste, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil*, 1-2 teaspoon maple syrup*, juice of one inch piece ginger (peeled), kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
*these are my substitutions and additions: kale raab is actually very delicious and sweet
Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves, toss lightly in drizzle of olive oil on shallow baking dish. Spread them out into one layer and season lightly with kosher salt. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until tomatoes are soft. Set aside.
Tear the radicchio leaves and chop the kale rabe into medium bite size pieces; set aside
Using a simple vegetable peeler and cut the carrot into ribbons (they will be curly); slice the cucumber thinly; set aside
In a large bowl, prepare an ice bath. Remove and discard the stem end and string from each sugar snap pea pod. Place them in boiling water for approximately 2 minutes, transfer them into the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain the peas thoroughly, toss together with cucumber and carrot ribbons.
Using a microplane set over a fine sieve (or tea leaf strainer) set in a bowl, grate the ginger into the sieve, then using a small spoon, press on the ginger solids to drain as much as juice as possible.
In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with lemon juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, miso paste, sesame oil and maple syrup. Pour 1 teaspoon of ginger juice (I used more actually) and mix well with the dressing. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, whisk until emulsified.
In large pot of boiling water, cook the soba noodles according to package instructions; treat it like pasta and cook until they are al dente. This step requires your full attention as soba noodles can be overcooked easily. When they are done, rinse under cold water (until water is no longer murky), toss and drain the noodles thoroughly, set aside.
In large saute pan, heat a teaspoon of the dressing over medium high heat; add the kale raab, cook for 2 to 3 minutes (until it is wilted), add radicchio and cook for another minute; use a pair of tongs to toss the vegetables together. Keep in mind you would like to keep the vegetables “cooked” yet crunchy.
Using a large bowl, mix the vegetables and soba noodle; assemble the salad onto a large platter or divide into 4 serving plates with dressing on the side. Garnish with chopped green onions and roasted cherry tomatoes. Enjoy!
Note: If you like soba noodle salad, go to my blog archives and check out my Mushroom Soba Salad with Yuzu Ponzu dressing, published in February 2014. Store leftover dressing in a mason jar (I just love them!), should be good for 1 to 2 days. I used it the next day with sauteed kale rabe and granny smith apple bits, it was absolutely delicious.
My sister-in-law Marcia is a pescatarian/vegetarian and a serious dessert/chocolate connoisseur; for almost every Festive family dinner gatherings when a “meat” dish is usually the main event, our mother-in-law would happily make our family’s favourite “Not real sushi – California rolls” (recipe already posted) or baked a salmon fillet for her, changing the sauce (Teriyaki, beurre blanc) each time. Although she enjoyed them always, it became a routine…
I decided to change things up just a bit after revisiting the classic recipe: I know it’s not major or “life defining” culinary moment, the thought process behind the thinner crispy potato crust (instead of usual mashed potatoes) was very simple; the “pie’ idea was inspired by Marcia’s past lovely desserts and believe my entire extended family will find this more enjoyable, it’s less carbs (haha) and less fat (from the sauce to the filling). Over time, I find myself putting even more consideration and thought into the food which I cooked for family and friends, a lot of times it is for health reasons and their preference; this is my way to express my love to those close and dear to me.
This dish, along with the juiciest turkey I’ve ever cooked together with my mother-in-law, and the sides and salads (Thanks Barb and Gina) and desserts (thanks Marcia! The chocolate truffle cake and apple galette were divine) prepared by my sisters-in-law were devoured in no time.
That was another happy busy day in the kitchen, happy meal, happy gathering, happy family moment together…I have so much to be thankful for.
On another happy note: I submitted the “pie” picture to Vancouver Gastropost for last week’s “Pie Oh My” Mission, it was selected and featured in Saturday’s weekend paper! Thank you Vancouver Sun for the acknowledgement (OO).
Ingredients: (For 9 1/2 inch pie plate)
500 g wild sockeye salmon fillet, 2 leeks (white part only, finely sliced), 4 to 6 Yukon gold potatoes (peeled and grated into strips), Japanese panko (handful), fresh juice of 1 lemon, 1 Tablespoon fresh dill (chopped), 1-2 Tablespoon grapeseed oil, sea salt and white pepper (for seasoning), grated cheddar (as you like and it is optional)
For Lemon dill infused bechamel: 4 cups of “tempered” unsweetened almond milk, 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh dill, peel of 1 lemon (strips), 1 bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (or to taste), 1/4 cup (approximately) of all-purpose flour, 3 to 4 Tablespoon grapeseed oil (traditional roux calls for butter, fat and flour is usually 1-1 ratio, I’ve used less than 3 Tablespoon of grapeseed oil). **Using grapeseed oil and unsweetened almond milk is my personal choice.
One Day Ahead: Prepare Lemon dill infused Bechamel Sauce
– In 4 quart Sauce pan, start “tempering” and flavouring of almond milk: (this is an important step as cold milk will result in lumpy and grainy sauce)
– Rinse saucepan with cold water (do not wipe dry – this will prevent the fats and protein from scorching the bottom of the saucepan), add unsweetened almond milk, then the aromatics – sprigs of fresh dill, lemon peel, bay leaf.
– Using medium low heat, bring liquid to a simmer (Do not bring to a boil), turn off the heat, cover with lid and let the flavours steep for at least 15 minutes (I did for 20 minutes).
– The hot milk should now be ready; it can now be strained into a measuring cup. Discard all flavouring ingredients.
– Wipe the saucepan clean, over medium low heat, start making the white roux (combining fat and starch together): add olive oil to saucepan, when oil begins to bubble, begin adding flour, keep stirring to form a smooth thin paste. The flour should be incorporated into the olive oil fully, continue to cook the roux by stirring constantly over medium low heat in order to prevent scorching (burning), the process should be no longer than 2 minutes (white roux does not take on colour), you are looking for a smooth and thin consistency (not thick and lumpy).
– Once the roux is ready, add hot milk to hot roux a bit a time while constantly whisking (easy to use a flat whisk) or stirring (spatula), let the mixture come back to a simmer each time before adding more hot milk. Once all the milk has been added, bring it to a gentle simmer while stirring. Lower The heat and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, pot uncovered (important), in order to cook out the starch flavour. Be careful not to bring to a boil as sauce will burn or split. Using a whisk, stir occasionally, make sure you scrape the bottom edges of the pot. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon nicely, once it finishes cooking, turn off heat, season to taste with sea salt and white pepper (optional). Strain the sauce into one more time for a silky smooth texture.
– To store properly, pour sauce into a glass bowl and place a plastic wrap over the hot bechamel, when cooled completely, refrigerate. The sauce will thicken considerably; to reheat the next day, add a little water (or stock) to the cold bechamel, stir and bring to a simmer.
Preparation on The Day Of:
– Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F (to bake the salmon).
– Clean and pat dry salmon fillet with paper towel, using tweezers (I keep one for cooking) remove pin bones.
– Place salmon fillet (skin side down) in baking tray. Mix 1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil and lemon juice in a small bowl, and drizzle over the salmon. Season by evenly with chopped dill, sea salt and fresh ground pepper (optional) to taste. Bake approximately 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until salmon is easily flaked with a fork; the salmon should still be pinkish and moist.
– While salmon is baking, peel and grate (or using a knife to slice) the potatoes into thin strips, place in a sieve, add 1 teaspoon of salt. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can with your hands; leave to drain for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat the process again with another teaspoon of salt, leave for another 10 minutes and again squeeze hard to remove as much moisture as possible. Pat dry with paper towel, cover and set aside.
– Once salmon is cooled considerably (don’t burn yourself!), start “flaking” the salmon by using a fork, the flakes should come off the skin easily. Flake them in “bite-size” (not large chunks), do not include salmon skin, make sure all bones have been removed. Set aside
– In saucepan reheat the bechamel sauce by adding a little water to the cold sauce, stir and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat when ready.
– In separate 6 quart pot, add drizzle of grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until soft but not browned, then add salmon flakes. Turn off and remove from heat, using a spatula, slowly and gently “fold in” bechamel sauce (a few spoonfuls at a time) with salmon mixture. the filling should not appear runny (Do not stir)
– Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F.
– Mix the grated potato strips with a handful of Japanese panko. Lightly brush the bottom of the 9 1/2 inch pie plate (mine is my Mom’s “vintage” Pyrex) with grapeseed oil, then sprinkle with chopped dill. Then pour the salmon filling, and top with the grated potatoes in an even layer, lightly brush the potatoes with just a little grapeseed oil, the crust should brown nicely.
– Place on a baking tray in the oven and cook for 40 to 45 minutes, or until heated through and bubbling, the potato crust should be golden brown and crispy. Serve immediately.
– Bechamel sauceand salmon flakes can be made one day ahead; just remember to let all prepared foods cooled down, store in proper containers before refrigerate.
I actually prepared this salmon flakes and the bechamel the day before our family’s Thanksgiving gathering; it’s all about “mise en place” – getting organized and give yourself some breathing room on the day of!
If you choose to make the bechamel sauce at the same time, prepare it while the salmon is baking in the oven. Have to work pretty quickly!
– Bechamel sauce, also known as white sauce, is made from roux (butter/flour) and milk. It is a “mother sauce” in French and Italian cuisines, and used as a base for other sauces (for example French Mornay sauce – add cheese to bechamel), so it’s handy to learn how to make the base properly. The choice of herbs to flavour the milk can be changed according to recipe.
The bechamel sauce cooking method is something I’ve learnt through the online cooking school Rouxbe; I am a life-time registered student/member for amateur programs. Their instructional videos are very informative, the instructions I’ve written are based on the narration. For serious home cooks, it may be worthwhile to register (http://rouxbe.com/); they also have professional programs available.
– Be mindful with the seasoning as salt is used to season all ingredients separately (especially the potatoes, salt was needed to “draw” the water), you don’t want to end up with a very salty pie!
– Always adjust all seasoning according to your taste and dietary needs.
– As I’m only a home cook, I’ve tried my best to record the measurements while I was preparing this dish, please feel free to adjust if necessary.
– Adding cheese (grated cheddar) is optional as it makes the dish “heavier”: I did when I made this pie (see main picture) for Thanksgiving dinner, I skipped when I made our smaller home pot-pies for dinner, which I served with peas for dinner. Enjoy (OO)!
The idea for this recipe spawned from three years ago when my friend “VG” brought back a bag of really delicious perilla flavored tea plums from her hometown (Kaohsiung); the moment I tasted the plums I immediately thought of using them for cooking and pair with duck, green tea and lychee to create an entree.
This was a work in progress and went through a few different versions, the idea of serving as lettuce wrap came this summer when I had a “Asian Food Fest ” gathering with some of my friends! I think by far it’s the best way to serve this duck breast and let it be the star with the perfect “supporting casts”. As I am only an amateur home chef, the measurements are approximate and cooking methods are based on the knowledge I acquired through my home cooking experiments and the few cooking classes which I’ve attended. Feel free to “tweak” it any way you think works best, and let me know if you have other suggestions. Enjoy (OO)!
Ingredients: (Serves two as main course)
2 duck breast (small to medium size), 1 English cucumber, Bunch of green scallions, Head of butter lettuce
Ingredients for the brine (which will be used to braise the duck breast and create the dipping sauce): 8 cups of cold water, 8 Tablespoons Organic Soy Sauce, 1 small knob of ginger (grated), 2 green scallions (roughly chopped), 1 green tea bag, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar (I’ve used rock sugar),I 8-10 lychee (fresh or canned, roughly chopped), 10-12 Taiwanese tea plums (remove seed, roughly chopped), 1-2 Tablespoons whole black peppercorn, juice and zest (grated) of 1 lemon,1-2 Tablespoons Japanese rice wine (sake), sea salt (for seasoning as required), 1-2 Tablespoons Taiwanese plum juice (optional)
The day before:
– Prepare the brine: With the exception of the green tea bag, put all brining ingredients into a 6 quart sauce pan. Using medium high heat, bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to medium low heat, let the mixture simmer and reduce for at least 45 minutes to an hour, it will become more concentrated.
– Turn off the heat, add the green tea bag and let it steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, remove tea bag, stir the mixture and let it cool down completely.
– Prepare the duck breast for brining: Place the duck breast on the chopping board skin side up, using a sharp knife, score the skin in a diagonal direction (45 degree angle), be careful not to cut into the flesh. Turn the duck breast around and score in the opposite direction. Pat skin and flesh side dry and set aside.
This is a very important step as scoring the duck breast for cooking helps to render out the fat from the skin more effectively. It is best to score the skin of the duck breast when cold, as it becomes more difficult once the skin warms up.
– Pour cooled down liquid (including all ingredients) into a non-reactive container (BPA free plastic or glass with lid). Submerge the duck breasts into brining liquid, cover with lid and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning:
– Remove the duck breasts from brining liquid, pat dry thoroughly (It must be completely dry) with paper towel, cover and refrigerate.
– Strain the liquid through a fine strainer, press hard on the solids to ensure you get every bit of the liquid. Run it through a few times to remove any small bits.
– Sauce preparation: Pour liquid into 4 quart sauce pan, using medium high heat, bring liquid to a boil, reduce to medium low heat, and let it simmer and further reduce to approximately 2 cups, the consistency should only be a little “syrupy”.
When ready to cook and serve:
– Take the duck breasts from the refrigerator and let them come towards room temperature prior to searing.
– Wash all vegetables thoroughly: Pull of pieces of butter lettuce gently, wash thoroughly and pat dry with paper towel. Julienne the cucumbers (cut in thin slices) and shred the green scallions.
– Reheat the sauce, keep in low simmer (don’t let it burn).
– On different stove top, place duck breasts skin side down on cold dry skillet, do not add any cooking oil. Place the pan over medium to medium low heat, and slowly render down the fat, it will take approximately 6 to 8 minutes, using a spatula (be careful not to burn yourself), gently flip over and check if skin is browned evenly. Using a spoon, remove the duck fat.
– When duck breast is ready, flip over (skin side up) and remove from skillet, finish cooking by “braising” in the sauce (as shown in picture below), skin side up. Adjust to medium low heat, Using a spoon, “spoon” the sauce constantly over the breast (this will help to cook the breast evenly), the liquid should be gently boiling (you can see bubbles).
– Let them cook for approximately 5 to 6 minutes (depends on the thickness of the duck breasts), flip them over skin side down and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. To test its doneness, the breasts should feel firm but tender, or you can should a
– Remove from heat, set aside and let them “rest” for at least 10 minutes prior to slicing.
– To finish the sauce, add a little duck fat (which you rendered earlier when browning the skin), Japanese sake and lemon juice, stir and mix well, taste and adjust the seasoning if required, finish off with a few grinds of black pepper. Strain the sauce one more time for a smoother texture.
– Slice the duck breasts thinly, it should be “pinkish” in colour.
– Assemble the platter and serve immediately.
– I purchased the duck breasts from Armando’s at Granville Island. The smaller ones are not as thick and easier to cook.
– This website has lots of good duck recipes and references: