Steamed Lemon Chicken

Chinese Steamed Lemon Chicken

Family recipes are great, especially if they’re not from my own. Having said that, my food-obsessed relatives are sure to disown me, so I’m going to explain myself in case my grandmother finds this while googling my name in search of my Twitter account.

I’ll never get tired of the foods of my childhood and will always have a Ratatouille moment each time I have Pinakbet. The thing is, I’ve had such dishes so many times already and would rather have something completely new. It’s like having that first awkward bite of sushi and thinking, “Where have you been all my life?” Thinking that wasabi was some sort of minty candy, my first memories of sushi actually involved shooting white nostril heat and gushing tears, but you know what I mean.

Regardless of cultural provenance, other people’s family recipes will always be appealing to me because it’s often a confluence of several good things:

  • It will be easy to make
  • It will be easy to like
  • It will be affordable

Take this recipe for steamed lemon chicken, for instance. From Eileen Yin-fei Lo’s The Chinese Kitchen, my favorite thing about the book is the wide array of family recipes in addition to well-known regional Chinese classics. She points out that this specific preparation will not be found anywhere else, yet one look at the ingredient list and it seems instantly familiar and accessible.

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Egg-Free Ice Cream

Oolong Tea Ice Cream using an Egg-Free Base
This egg-free ice cream recipe is my first choice for trying out dry flavorings such as tea, coffee, and spices. It’s best for highlighting more delicate ingredients since egg yolks have a pronounced presence in homemade ice cream sometimes. I can’t recommend it for watery or fatty ingredients such as fresh fruit or chocolate couverture. It might work, but the results will be much better using recipes suited to such ingredients.

This isn’t merely your average custard-style ice cream base with the egg yolks omitted. It’s specifically balanced for green tea ice cream (and presumably other such dry ingredients) by the fine folks at the San Francisco Baking Institute. SFBI’s thousand-page tome of all things baked, sweet, and chocolaty is quickly becoming encrusted with flour and unidentified liquids from kitchen abuse.

I consider this recipe a light ice cream base at 75% whole milk and 25% heavy cream. It doesn’t exactly sound like diet food, so let me point out this fairly popular vanilla ice cream recipe as a reference point. The base for Alton Brown’s recipe is 75% half-and-half and 25% heavy cream. Plus 8 egg yolks.

If enjoying a few scoops of homemade ice cream entails thoughts of cholesterol, omelets, and a treadmill all at the same time, then I’d look somewhere else for a frozen dessert fix. I have actually tried that recipe and it’s absolutely delicious, but everyone knows it’s impossible to satiate an ice cream craving with two-teaspoon servings.

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Perfect Brown Rice

Healthy Cooking Perfect Brown Rice

When Saveur Magazine calls something perfect, my initial reaction is to just take their word for it and bookmark regardless of subject matter. Whether it’s about poaching or pig’s feet, I trust that the technique or recipe will work, so when Saveur recently published a method for making perfect brown rice, a staple in my kitchen, the issue was dog-eared within seconds of finding the page.

As if cooking pasta, Saveur’s method calls for boiling the rice in a large amount of water. A common practice in Indian rice cookery, this method is nothing new, but to East and Southeast Asians like myself, it’s an unusual idea. I’ve been taught since childhood to steam white rice in just enough water for the grains to absorb and naturally did the same thing when I switched to brown rice.

It took more than a few wasted batches before getting consistently good results with steaming, but Saveur’s boiling method worked perfectly on the first try. Old habits are hard to break, but I was more than willing to embrace such a foolproof approach.

My pride shattered from not figuring out such a simple solution sooner, I am jumping on the chance to one-up Saveur and suggest a much better method for cooking brown rice. My food blogger street cred will skyrocket with this approach.

Or maybe not.

It takes a lot to improve a “perfect” Saveur recipe and I’m not about to tell you to cook the rice with chicken stock and a side of cow. The following recipe still calls for nothing more than the grains and a lot of water but with some extra planning ahead and a bit of temperature control.

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Mangoes and Cream – 7 Ways to Indulge

Mangoes and Cream

Mangoes and cream sounds as classic a food pairing as peas and carrots, peanut butter and jelly, or spaghetti and meatballs to my ears. This combination lends itself to so many variations, each with its own distinctive character.

The recipe and variations that follow are based on malai aam, a classic Indian dessert of mangoes and cream topped with nuts. It traditionally uses rabadi – milk slowly simmered until reduced to one-fourth its original volume. Sweetened and served as a creamy sauce, rabadi is essential in Indian desserts such as the labor-intensive ras malai, cheese dumplings served with a pistachio cream sauce.

Reading about ras malai in Julie Sahni’s excellent cookbook Classic Indian Cooking, I immediately had a strong urge to try it. Making it myself was not an option because it doesn’t make sense to cook something I’ve never had before. There’s also that little problem with the recipe spanning six pages long, making even the most complex sauces and gravies in the book seem like child’s play.

I consider myself lucky that I live in a city with a thriving Indian community and have access to sweets as boldly flavored as their savory counterparts in curries and dals. A walk down Devon Avenue to hunt for unfamiliar sweets never fails to disappoint — I just point at random things not caring what it is knowing full well that I’ll be surprised and pleased at the same time.

View Malai Aam Recipe and 7 Variations »

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Blueberry Mint Brioche Pudding

Blueberry Mint Brioche Bread Pudding

What can you do to make buttery brioche buns better? Why, soak it in vanilla-infused cream and milk, of course. Adding fresh antioxidant-rich blueberries isn’t such a bad idea as well, mainly so you can convince yourself that the resulting mess of creamy goodness is somewhat healthy.

Since this is based on a Daniel Boulud recipe, I felt like showing this amateur how it’s supposed to be done. I added my own twist to his instructions and put a bit more (way too much?) effort into the presentation. I also added contrasting warm and cool elements as well as crisp and creamy textures to make the brioche bread pudding light and decadent at the same time.

Alright then.

This is why late afternoon trips to Starbucks should be avoided, kids.

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