RECIPE: Triple C Chowder: Cauliflower, Chicken and Corn Chowder

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Late in October I was really thrilled when JJ and TT (many thanks again!) brought me some Hungarian paprika as souvenir from their European trip; I admit this is not the spice I use very often in my cooking, I had to give it some serious thought…

Rewind back to early October when I went for my haircut at Fab’s; my hair colouring session is the time when I catch up on my magazine reading; we are mostly digitized (twitter, Facebook, instagram) these days, so I rarely buy hard copies of any magazines unless it’s some special edition which I would like to keep. I was flipping through the October issue of Canadian Living magazine and came across their wonderful cauliflower corn chowder recipe; I love the idea of using cauliflower or potato in soups to add the texture without the need for whipping cream.  As usual, I took a snapshot and “tuck” it away in my cookery files…

So here you go; here’s my own version – the end result? It’s a lighter and healthier chowder, and certainly makes a hearty weeknight meal.  Please feel free to change things up anyway you like to suit your own taste and dietary needs.

There’s still paprika left in the pantry, so what’s next? Perhaps a Hungarian goulash for my dear friends? (OO)

Ingredients: (Serves 4-6, parts of the recipe adapted from Canadian Living’s Cauliflower Corn Chowder)

2 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 large yellow onion (diced), 4 cloves of garlic finely minced, 2 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, 1 1/2 Tablespoon smoked sweet paprika, 4 corn cobs (husked, kernels removed, save the cobs), 1 small head cauliflower (cut into bite size), 2 boneless chicken breast (skinned and cut into bite size), 3 cups low sodium chicken broth*, 1 to 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk*, 1 large sweet pepper (seeded and cut to bite size), 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, sea salt for seasoning to taste and sliced green scallions (or chives) for garnish (optional).

*almond milk and using mostly organic produce is my own preference; I’ve used homemade chicken stock as the soup base.  To add some heat – add 1 chili pepper to soup mixture or just use hot sauce in the end when ready to serve.

Preparation:

– In small bowl, prepare marinade for chicken; whisk together 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 Tablespoon paprika and pinch of sea salt.  Add chicken breast cubes to mixture and marinate for at least 20 minutes.

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 In a small pot using medium low heat, add the cobs to the chicken stock, let mixture simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and set aside.

– In Dutch oven or large heavy pot, using medium high heat, saute the chicken breast until the meat is slightly browned and half-cooked, about 2 to 3  minutes.  Remove chicken meat from pot.

– Using the same pot, heat remaining olive oil, add onion, garlic, chopped fresh thyme and remaining paprika; saute until onion is softened, this takes approximately 3 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 the corn kernels, cauliflower, pre-heated chicken stock, sea salt and 1/2 cup water, bring mixture to boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until cauliflower is tender, approximately 10 minutes.

– Using an upright blender, working in small batches, process and puree the soup until smooth (be mindful to fill blender jar less than half way). To prevent the hot liquid from splattering: remember to allow heat to escape by removing the blender’s lid centre insert (cap), hold a kitchen towel over the top when blending.

– Return puree soup to pot, add remaining corn kernels, red pepper and half-cooked chicken breast cubes, bring soup to boil.  Reduce to low heat, stir in almond milk, let it simmer and stir occasionally until red pepper is tender and chicken cubes are cooked through.  Season with sea salt to taste. Turn off heat, stir in lemon juice.

– When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls, add hot sauce (optional) and garnish with chopped green scallions or chives (optional).

 

 

RECIPE: Faux-Omurice (Japanese Omelet Rice “Omurice” -)

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You must wonder what’s with the faux “Omurice” and Tomato Caramelized Onion “Jam-chup” (see other posting)?

Last month’s cauliflower “fried rice” was a food “jackpot”; I decided to continue to run with the idea and see what other variations I can come up with…

Over a dinner gathering with friends, we were talking about childhood comfort foods and our favours we love..my hubby Andy mentioned “Omelet Rice”….and voila!

I must give him full credit for coming up with this idea; It’s not a surprise at all as the Japanese “yoshoku” omelet is one of his all time favourite comfort foods! As an adult his tastes may have evolved in many ways but some things just never change – wonderful food memories and tastes just stay with us forever, we all have our own short list of “go-to” comfort foods.

As for the choice of vegetables: I picked carrots, corn and zucchini for their crunchy texture!  Although we are treating the cauliflower as “fried rice”, overall the texture is still a bit soft, it needs the “crunch” to add textural interest. The onions adds a sweet flavour and the Canadian back bacon lends a subtle smoky flavor, it is also leaner and I added just enough to satisfy a meat lover’s (like my husband) craving.

Canadian back bacon is also one of Andy’s favourites; this dish actually celebrates who he is, and pays homage to both his Japanese and Canadian roots.

The Tomato caramelized onion jam “jam-chup” (Andy calls it as it’s a replacement for ketchup, just a play on words) is a very lucky find (Serious Eats), I’m so happy and proud that I “tweaked” the original recipe and made it work for my dish.

You may wonder how I came up with this Deconstructed version in a bowl? Aesthetically this works beautifully; it’s practical and easy to serve. The cauliflower “rice” is actually quite filling and since it’s in small bits, you need to put a lot to “stuff’ the omelet to make it “full”, I think the serving will become too big.

Besides…It’s time for me to practice flipping omelets!! Enjoy (OO)

Ingredients: (serves 2-4)

1 small head of organic cauliflower, 3-4 teaspoons grapeseed oil, 1 medium yellow onion (finely diced), 1 large carrot (peeled and finely diced), 2 ears of fresh corn (husked and kernels removed), 1 large zucchini (finely diced), 2 slices of Canadian back bacon (diced), organic eggs (1 for each serving), unsweetened almond milk (1 Tablespoon for each portion), 2 Tablespoons of stock (I’ve used homemade Japanese dashi stock, you can substitute with chicken broth or vegetable broth), organic Japanese soy sauce (season to taste), sea salt and ground black pepper, chives for garnish (optional).

**For a vegetarian version – omit the Canadian bacon, substitute the Japanese dashi stock (from kelp and bonito flakes) vegetable broth.  I find the dashi adds a very nice flavor to this dish.

Preparation:

– Clean the cauliflower,core and trim the florets off the stems, cut off any blemishes (sometimes there are brown spots!).  Process florets in the food processor until they resemble the texture and size of rice grains.

– Chop the onion finely, dice carrot and zucchini finely, husked and removed corn kernels, set aside.

– Slice and dice the Canadian back bacon into small bits separately, set aside.

– In a large pot (I used a 5 quart pot with lid) or wok/saute pan, using high heat, heat 2 teaspoons of grape seed oil; add 1/2 the diced onion and cook until they become soft and translucent.  Add carrots, saute for 2 minutes; add corn and saute for another 2 minutes; add zucchini and 1 Tablespoon of dashi stock (you will hear a “sizzling” sound), saute and mix the vegetables well (takes approximately 2-3 minutes).  The entire process takes less than 10 minutes; vegetables should be cooked yet crunchy in texture.  Remove from pan and set aside.

– Using the same pot, adjust to medium low heat, add another teaspoon of oil, add the remaining diced onion, again cook until they become soft and translucent.  Add cauliflower, stirring gently for 5 minutes until the oil is evenly distributed and each “grain” is coated.

– Add 1 Tablespoon of dashi stock, put the lid on, adjust to low heat (to avoid burning) and “steam” the cauliflower for 3 to 4 minutes.  If you like it softer, cook a little longer.

– Remove the lid, readjust to medium high heat, add Canadian back bacon bits, saute for 2 minutes; return carrot/corn/zucchini mixture to pot. Using spatula, gently fold and stir fry ingredients until mixture is slightly browned, taste and season with soy sauce and black ground pepper, Turn off heat and set cooked mixture aside.

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Filling ready to go!

– Whisk the egg, add a pinch of sea salt and almond milk (1 Tablespoon to 1 egg) together in small bowl, you are preparing each portion individually.

– Lightly greased a small frying pan (I’ve used an 8 inch), coat the surface with a thin coat of grape seed oil.

– Heat the pan over medium high heat, when pan gets hot, pour the egg mixture and tilt to cover the pan evenly; once the egg has set, turn off and remove from heat.

– Gently remove “omelet” from frying pan and lay in a round bowl (find one that fits the omelet perfectly!), ladle the filling on top of “omelet”. (At this time you can decide whether you would like to make this version or a real omelet**).

– Garnish with chives (optional) and serve immediately with tomato caramelized onion jam “jam-up” (see separate recipe).

Notes:

Namiko Chen’s website “Just One Cookbook” has an excellent “traditional” Japanese Omelet Rice Recipe with very clear instructions and excellent demonstration on how to assemble the omelet.

http://www.justonecookbook.com/recipes/omurice-japanese-omelette-rice/

– I always try to keep oil usage to minimum; you can always add a little more to adjust.

– In a regular omelet rice recipe, ketchup is added to rice directly.  It’s my humble opinion that it will not work and make the cauliflower soggy and taste funny, besides we don’t use ketchup much these days and decided to look for a healthier option.

– This is an anything goes recipe; You can choose whatever vegetables you have or to your liking to substitute the corn, zucchini or carrots. I chose them because they add a crunchy texture. Feel free to use chicken (in regular recipe) instead of back bacon. Be creative!

– To all Moms: this may be a great option to encourage (or “fool”) your kids into eating more vegetables (OO). It makes a great bento box lunch and a wonderful one-dish dinner.

– I choose Canadian back bacon as it is leaner. If you are using regular bacon, render the fat and use it to saute the vegetables to add more flavor.  As bacon is salty, adjust the seasoning as required.

– As always, remember to taste and season according to your liking and dietary needs!

 

RECIPE: Salmon and Leek Potato Crusted Pie

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The pie I made for Thanksgiving Dinner – this picture was selected and made it to this week’s Vancouver Sun Gastropost.

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.

Preparation:

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.

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Flavours are steeping and simmering away!

– 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.

Whisking Away!
Whisking Away!

– 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.

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Depend on your liking, you can put more potatoes. Remember to layer them evenly!

– 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.

Notes:

Bechamel sauce and 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)!

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Smaller versions I made at home
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Voila!