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Archive for February, 2010

I was a bit of a whirlwind in the kitchen this weekend, and a lot of great stuff came out as a result.

First off, I am sure you may be anxiously wondering what I did with my Alma’s caramel sauce.  As suggested by a reader, I first sampled it warmed up with fresh Concorde pear slices which was quite good and simple.

Thinking about ginger + caramel + pears, which is one of my favorite dessert combos, I decided to make gingerbread which seemed fitting for the drizzly Portland Friday that faced me.

I recently got this book from the library:

The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper

Picture of book courtesy of delish.com

If you are an NPR fan, you may be familiar with Lynn Rossetto Kasper’s Sunday night cooking/food show, The Splendid Table.  It’s also available as a podcast for your bus-riding pleasure!

So far, I am really enjoying this book.  It has some great simple recipes, with a focus on weeknight cooking, so most of the recipes are not too fussy & require only a handful of ingredients.  It’s also the kind of cookbook that’s perfect for just curling up in a chair and reading – if you’re a cookbook fan, you’ll understand what I mean.  I also like how frequently they will have a recipe, then a variation or two on the same idea.  I’m going to give a few more recipes a spin, but this may be a contender for adding to my shelf.

I have already made a chowder from it – using a great suggestion from the book to add both smoked & fresh salmon.  I decided to next try the “Dark and Moist Gingerbread” and furthermore, the variation called “Apple Chunk Double Gingerbread” as I had both some apples and candied ginger clunking around in the kitchen.

It was fantastic – just what I like in a gingerbread – dark and smoky and moist.  Perfect with tea, and even better with a little of that previously mentioned caramel sauce & a few Bartlett pear slices to scoop up the extra sauce bits.

molasses

Molasses meets the egg

gingerbread
Gooey gingerbread and caramel sauce, with pear wedges

Dark and Moist Gingerbreadfrom The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper

2 cups minus 2 Tbsp flour
1 generous tsp baking soda
generous 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup mild or dark molasses (I used Aunt Patty’s Blackstrap – from Fred Meyer’s natural foods section)
3/4 cup very hot water (190 F – I just boiled water in my tea kettle & let it rest a few minutes while mixing the other stuff)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed (I used light ’cause that’s what Trader Joe’s sold me!)
1 large egg
Variation for apple chunk – double ginger: 2 Tbsp finely chopped candied ginger & 1 apple, peeled/cored/cut into small chunks (the book suggested Granny Smith, but I used a mystery apple from the produce drawer)

Preheat your oven to 350.  Butter & flour an 8-inch square light-colored metal baking pan.  (To flour: dump some flour in your tin and then shake around over a sink, tapping it so that the flour just barely coats the sides & bottom).

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt) and all spices.  Add apples & ginger, if using, at this point.

In a large bowl, beat together butter, molasses, hot water, and brown sugar till somewhat frothy.  Add egg and beat well, then gradually add the flour mix.  Stir till just mixed in.

Pour into prepared pan, and bake for 35 minutes or till a tester in the middle comes out clean.  Mine was a still a little gooey, but I decided to go with it, as the edges were done and pulling away.  It set up well, and I kinda like my baked goods a little soft in the middle.

Cool on a wire rack, but be sure to eat some while still warm!  It gets even better in a day or two if it lasts, as the flavor just deepens.  Great with caramel sauce, if you got it, pears, and/or fresh whipped cream.  Or just plain with hot tea.

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You’ve got to admire the simplicity of a food cart that serves one dish.  Or the outright brazenness perhaps – this, this is exactly what you want to eat.

Nong’s Khao Man Gai is a cart that does exactly that.  There’s something pretty zen about a cart that makes the same meal over and over again day in and day out.   Their dish is pretty simple: boiled chicken, sauce, rice, and broth, but there’s more to it than it sounds.

I haven’t been to Thailand, but from I’ve read, khao man gai is a common street food dish in Thailand.  The recipe on one website is prefaced by the description of the dish as a ” ‘high end’ street vendor dish because it’s more complicated to make, and requires a fairly sophisticated cart and tools.”

The cart owner is originally from Thailand, but she spent some time working in one of Portland’s most highly rated Thai restaurants, Pok Pok, before venturing out on her own.

Here’s the cart:

Nong's

Nong's Khao Man Gai - SW 10th and Alder

So, there are a few options – the regular khao man gai  ($6) which is a butcher-paper wrapped pile of sticky rice cooked in chicken broth, topped with slices of boiled-till-tender chicken, cilantro, cucumber slices, and a little container of sauce.  This package is presented to you like an origami present all folded up, a rubber band holding it together, and then slipped on top, there is another little container of broth and a spoon/napkin.

You can also add extra chicken, chicken livers, extra sauce, or supersize your khao man gai (piset).

The Menu!

Drink Menu

One of the highlights of the drink menu is the Vietnamese coffee (made with Portland’s Stumptown Coffee!) which I prefer to the often overly-sweet Thai iced tea.  The rich, strongly brewed coffee is complimented by sweetened condensed milk.

Nong's description of Khao Man Gai

So, as described above, one of the key parts of the khao man gai is the sauce.  I mean, otherwise it’d be kind of dull – chicken + rice?  The sauce is zippy, a little spicy but not much, and definitely garlic-filled.  It’s very fresh tasting, definitely not from a bottle, and it has that magic that a good Thai dish has – a balance of tangy and sweet and spicy, all at once.

I forgot to take a picture of the cute wrapping job or the even cuter food cart lady herself (her and her crew are usually jamming out to some good beats while chopping chicken furiously).  There’s usually a long line for this dish, and I hear she frequently sells out for the day.

The package unwrapped, with broth to the left and sauce on top.

Now with the sauce poured on top.

The broth is very simple – it usually has a wisp of greens or some bitter melon, not much else.  Somehow – add all together this becomes  a special dish that is both exotic and comforting at the same time.  It’s a bit like a deconstructed chicken noodle soup with a little extra zing.  I must admit this week’s serving of chicken wasn’t my favorite – a few “bits” were left that were a bit ugly, but that’s the risk of eating meat, I suppose (this is one of my rare meat-excursions).  That won’t stop me, I’ll be back again for this magic combo.

Essential Details:

Nong’s Khao Man Gai
website
Corner of SW 10th & Alder, Portland
971.255.3480
Open M-F, 10am until sold out!

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Recipe in my back pocket

I’m kind of a stickler for following recipes, especially the first time through, but even after that, I still find myself peering at a cookbook to see if it was a teaspoon or half a teaspoon of thyme.

Eventually I’d like to get better at winging it in the kitchen – either throwing things together by instinct or having a collection of recipes sitting in my head.  I always imagine myself on a trip somewhere far from home and having a desire to make scones – could I do it?  Could I recreate that same recipe I’ve made over and over many a Saturday morning?

There are just a few things I cook straight from memory, and I find those recipes with simple ingredients or an easy-to-remember formula are best.

Here’s one I like to think of as my “back pocket” fish recipe. If  I find myself with some fish or decide to pick some up on the way home, I know I can always make this one with maybe just a stop by the produce aisle for a lemon.

A note about fish quantities & types: Since I’m usually cooking for two, I get about 3/4 lb of fish – this is plenty with maybe a little extra leftover.  I like this recipe best with a firm white fish like catfish, tilapia, or cod. It would work with salmon probably, but I think there are better ways to show off salmon.

Honey-Mustard Fish

First, let’s start with the ratio – it’s quite simple.    honey : lemon juice : dijon mustard

  • Whisk an equal amount of each in a flat dish or bowl.  I usually do 1-2 Tbsp each.
  • In a 2nd bowl, toss together some panko crumbs (my preference) or in a pinch, regular bread crumbs with dried thyme, salt, and pepper.  Regular bread crumbs come out a little bit soggier I’ve found.

fish coatings

Honey:lemon:mustard on the left and panko crumbs on the right.

  • Dip filets of fish in liquid to coat well, then dip in panko mix.
fish in dish

Breaded fish, ready to go in the oven

  • Place in a single layer in a baking dish.  (I often like to put either parchment paper or foil in the dish to make clean up easier.)
  • I’ve baked this recipe at anywhere from 350-425 degrees, depending on what other sides I’m making.  So, for the purposes of giving you some directions – let’s say about 12-18 minutes at 375, depending upon thickness of fish.

If I’m doing catfish, sweet potato oven fries are a natural fit, so I’ll start those first then put the fish in for the last 15 minutes.  What’s in your back pocket?

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