Archive for the ‘Holidays and Entertaining’ Category

Shabu-shabu – something everyone can enjoy

Monday, June 27th, 2011

As part of our introduction to Japanese food my husband and I have discovered shabu-shabu.  It is a wonderfully delicious and healthy soup that is typically prepared table-side with guests adding their own meats and vegetables in the broth.   Here’s how shabu-shabu works.

You start by purchasing a portable burner and setting that at your table. 

Find a pot that fits the burner and still allows you to feed about four per.  Add about one quart of a good broth or stock.  Supplement the stock with ginger slices, lemongrass, garlic, red pepper flakes, star anise…whatever flavors you enjoy. 

Allow those to simmer together for a few minutes while you prepare the vegetables and meats.  In this broth I also added some of the small pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms.

For the vegetables you can use any combination you choose. 

If you use things like sweet potatoes and carrots, be sure they are sliced thinly so they cook quickly at the table.

Add the vegetables that take longest to cook first…

and add the quick cooking vegetables, like spinach, last.  In this particular meal I used cubes of tofu but frequently we add shrimp and very thinly sliced raw pork or beef.  Pieces from the loin are most tender.  When the meat is shaved super thin it cooks in seconds.   Thicker pieces will take longer. 

Also have ready some beaten egg in a bowl, usually one egg per person.  Once the vegetables have cooked to your liking…

slowly add the egg to the simmering broth,  cook for another minute and stir.

Ladle the soup over bowls of rice and you are ready to enjoy.  You can add soy sauce, if needed, or other Asian style sauces but the truth is, if you create an awesome broth at the onset you need very little help at the end.  This is a very light and healthy soup making it the perfect meal for the summer.

Manicotti gets even easier

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

opener

Every time I make manicotti I find yet another shortcut.  This one will have the entire world making manicotti.  It occurred to me that you can make and assemble lasagne without par boiling the flat noodles.  So…if you can bake a lasagne without going to the trouble of boiling the noodles, why couldn’t you fill manicotti tubes right out of the box.  Here’s how.

filling-second-end

Take the uncooked tubes and fill each with your cheese mixture or whatever mixture you are using.  I like using a piping bag and pastry tube but if you don’t have that equipment then simply get a heavy duty plastic bag, transfer you filling to that and snip one corner and squeeze from there.

One person and two hands can now do a job that is typically managed with double that.  It is rather challenging, however, to fill manicotti while trying to work a camera. I was really needing my husband operate the camera but sometimes they just aren’t around when you need them the most! So if the pictures are placed a little awkward, that’s why.

filling-tube

Start at one end and squeeze.  The mixture will go about halfway down the tube and then flip it over and squeeze into the other end, completing the filling of the tube.  Normally you would be holding the tube in your hand, not resting it on the counter.  But when one hand has to take a picture this is what you resort to.

sauced1

Grease the pan you will be using and then pour some of the sauce you are using on the bottom before you place the tubes in the pan.  That sauce will moisten the bottoms of the tubes and help them to cook.  Please note that because the pasta is dry it will absorb sauce as it cooks.  If your sauce is thick to begin with it will be even thicker by the time the pasta is tender and it takes longer for the manicotti to cook, in that case.  It is preferable to have a sauce that is on the wet side so that  it will provide enough moisture for the dry tubes to cook.

test-for-doneness

Take to a 350 oven and bake until everything is bubbly and tubes feel  soft to the touch.  Test in the center where things always take longer to cook.  Now that manicotti is this easy we can serve it more often.  And think of all the variations!  Wow!

filled-final

Pizza crust – thin and crispy!

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

closer

Pizza is at its best when the crust is thin and crispy…I think.  Over the years I have tried baking pizza in a lot of different ways and with a lot of different pans, always striving for that thin, crispy crust.  Here’s a method I can always count on that we used at the restaurant for a number of years.

rolling-discs

It starts by making your own pizza dough and precooking it. 

first-side-bubbles

The crusts can be prebaked in the oven OR if you have an indoor or outdoor grill they can be cooked on the racks.  The heat should be fairly strong.  The first side goes down, when it begins to bubble, flip it over…

grill-marks

and cook the second side. 

cooling-racks

Cool on racks.  Package in heavy ziploc freezer bags and store in the freezer for future use.  They can be frozen for 2-3 months when kept in heavy duty bags.  My recipe is a large batch that makes about 16, 4-ounce rounds.  If you are going to make a bit of a mess it might as well count.

cheese-off-the-edges

To get a crispy crust the best method is to use no pan at all.  Create your pizza with all it’s toppings and cheese.  Try to keep the cheese from getting too close to the edge.  Because you will not be using a pan there will be nothing to catch spills.  If the cheese is somewhat minimized at the edges you will be fine.

pizza-directly-on-racks

Preheat your oven to 400 and set your pizza rounds directly on the oven racks. 

showing-thin-crust

Bake until cheese it melted and crust is crispy.  The four ounce pizzas, which are about 10 inches in diameter take about 10-12 minutes.  When they are ready remove them from the oven and set them on a baking rack.  Avoid setting them on a baking sheet which causes them to sweat and soften.  You can set them on the counter briefly to cut but immediately put them back on the rack to preserve the crispiness of the crust.

Frozen banana split crepes

Monday, May 9th, 2011

opener

If you like crepes and like banana splits here’s a great combination.  And this is a great dessert because it can be made ahead and frozen with no last minute fuss.  To make this easy purchase ice cream in the square cartons.  Have your crepes all laid out on a clean counter, preferably each on a sheet of parchment or wax paper. 

unfolded-carton

Open the carton…

block-in-fourths

and cut the block into fourths, lengthwise…

thirds

and then cut each sheet into thirds, creating 12 sticks total.

banana-on-crepe

Lay 1/2 of a banana (cut lengthwise) on the crepe, cut side up…

ice-cream-on-banana

and set a stick of ice cream on top. 

rolled

Roll and press together pushing in any ice cream that wants to ooze out the ends. 

rolled-parch-in-pan

Roll tight in the parchment, set on a clean, chilled baking sheet…and take immediately to the freezer.  Freeze until firm and then cover really well with plastic wrap to make sure it’s protected from freezer odors.

 final

Cut in half on a diagonal and serve only half for a smaller portion or use both halves for a more generous.  Serve with a drizzle of caramel and chocolate sauce, peanuts and cream.  Yum!  Ideally the crepe needs to soften for a few minutes to make it work with a fork or you can serve it firmer and eat with fingers!

*Use bananas that are just barely ripe, not overripe.

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