Steamed Chinese Dumplings

Chinese dumplings

Steamed Chinese dumplings are my downfall. There are few things I eat that give me as much pleasure as these wonderful creations that disappear as quickly as I can make them. Doesn’t matter whether I’m hungry or not, doesn’t matter when the dumplings appear, nothing really matters. If I’m there and the dumplings are there, they disappear and I’m happier for it.

I don’t much remember the first time I had dumplings, but I can tell you two of my most memorable dumpling fests. The first was an occasion in China, when a friend invited my wife and I over to their house to make dumplings. Now going to an apartment in China was a big step for us. That stuff didn’t happen very often, and to go for dumplings, that was a special deal — at least for me. What I didn’t know, is that I’d have to help make them, and that, was, at the very least, funny. I eventually learned how to make a passable pleating to hold the dumplings together and the rest — including the recipe for the filling — was very wonderful.

The second, was also in China, and a friend and I had gone to the Great Wall, and an old friend who was our guide, was bringing us back from there and pulled into a restaurant, ordered something in Chinese, and in a short while, out came the most gigantic plate of dumplings I’d ever seen. I thanked the chef, as I recall, and with three of us working on them, they didn’t last very long. As we were leaving, the chef brought another box of dumplings for us to have later. Amazing.

The steamed dumplings are about as close to the original as I could make them. I have to confess I did use frozen dumpling skins, but the truth is, their as good as any I’ve ever had and they are so much more convenient. If you want to make your own, there are plenty of online articles for that.


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Chicken Legs Sous Vide

sous vide chicken legs

By now, you know that I’ve become a big fan of sous vide chicken finished up in a deep fryer. And that’s of course where these chicken legs come from. They’re done sous vide, at 150 degrees for about an hour or so, then — after they’ve cooled — they’re breaded and deep fried, with a little finishing salt on the side.

The main issue with these chicken legs is a breading mix, which uses flour, garam masala, a little parsley, and plenty of paprika. In this case, I use the breading mix first to coat the chicken, then add some mixed egg and then roll it back through the flour as a finish. The result is rather  light and really perfect for a light dinner entry.


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Pan-Seared Halibut

halibut with pear gastrique

Although there apparently isn’t a distinct halibut season, the first half of summer is when these wonderful fish seem to be most abundant. So around this time, I can grab some fresh halibut, and you can bet it’s headed for my plate, pronto.

Halibut is a firm white fish with a mild flavor, which makes it perfect for pan searing and it works well with a light fruity gastrique and the earthy flavor of chopped fresh Brussels sprouts sauteed with bacon and shallots. For this recipe, I made the gastrique using pear nectar and topped it with slices of pear that were sauteed in a little butter. 

The dish is simple and easy to prepare. The fresh ingredients are what makes it sing.

The recipe serves four, but it’s easily adjusted up or down.


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Ghormeh Sabzi – Persian Green Stew

Ghormeh Sabzi

So. Is this really ghormeh sabzi? The truth is, I don’t know, but I doubt that it’s the real thing — at least as far as my few Persian friends might think. That said, this is a Persian green stew, and it comes out with all the lamb and herbal essence you might look for in a good stew. So have at it folks. This is a winner, even if it’s not all that authentic.

Apart from the typical lamb, onions, herbs, they key ingredients, as is often the case with Persian dishes, is the dried limes. You need these and their easy enough to get on Amazon and probably some other places. You can’t have a Persian dish like this one, without the limes, and no, fresh limes aren’t the same thing. Not by any stretch. They add a nice little slightly sour taste to the stew that I’ve never encountered anywhere else.

This recipe works really well over ordinary white rice and uses lamb shoulder, which generally is pretty inexpensive, at least as lamb goes.


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Chicken Chorizo Empanadas

chicken chorizo empanadas

How do you make your own empanadas? Well, I had some chorizo and some fresh chicken in the fridge, so the idea of making chicken chorizo empanadas seemed like something that just HAD to happen. And surprising enough, It actually did happen (although the first try wasn’t very good, but that’s an altogether different story). Turns out, none of it was very hard, and you could use a good frozen package of empanada shells to make it even easier, if you care to. 

The story behind empanadas, on the other hand, was a revelation — at least to me. For a lot of reasons (not the least was my own ignorance of South of the Border cooking) I assumed that empanadas were Mexican. I mean, you get them everywhere in Mexican restaurants, right? Nope. These tasty little meat pies are originally from Argentina, it turns out, and while chicken and chorizo may (or may not) have been a part of the original pies, empanadas have become such a mainstay of all cooking below the U.S., I think they probably fit the norm now. 

The trick is that whether they were part of the original idea, they are first, extremely good and second, well, why not?


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If You’ve Never Tried Marrow Bones, Here’s How

Marrow Bones

Marrow bones are something that, if you’ve tried them and don’t like them, I understand. If you love them, they’re pretty easy to make and make an interesting appetizer. This post, however, is mainly for those who haven’t tried marrow bones yet, and haven’t had the intestinal fortitude to actually order them in a restaurant. First, as I said, they’re pretty easy to make and, if you don’t like them, I suppose you can toss them and know o avoid them in the future. If, like me, you really love them, then you’re all set.

The main thing about marrow bones is to get a nice size batch of bones, preferably not something you’ll have to cut. If you like long bones, get the butcher to cut them lengthwise, or if you’re like me, I try to get bones about two inches or so, which can be used as is, without any cutting. The rest is easy. Make a little parsley dressing and some nice sour dough toast and you’re ready to go.

To eat them, dip a knife into the bones, spread the marrow on the toast and add a little dressing on the top, maybe with a little lemon. The taste is beefy and maybe a little gooey, but honestly, it’s not a lot different from hummus or some other filling you put of bread, but a lot more tasteful — to my mind anyway.


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Empress Tacos — Great Steak Tacos

Empress Tacos

While I’ve been known to indulge in tacos, they’re seldom my favorite food. They tend to be a bit messy and, frankly, with just hamburger and chicken, they tend to be pretty much the same — maybe with more or less chili — but you get the idea. Having said that, these “Empress Tacos” are a different story. Their something else entirely, starting with filet mignon (cut into chunks after cooking) and combining a little lettuce, guacamole and salsa fresca, add a little lettuce and you have a real treat. Add some black beans on the side and now you have something special.

For those who are curious, this dish — which I found in an old cookbook and upgraded a bit — is named for the Empress Carlota, who was at the time apparently the actual empress of Mexico. She was a big fan of the spicy food of Mexico (she apparently wasn’t native there) and these tacos were designed to bring her to mind, from time to time, I guess.

There are some things to note about this recipe. You can use other kinds of steak for them, but the filet is really the way to go. As for the tacos, guacamole, and salsa fresca, each of them can be made yourself or bought from a decent Mexican (or some other store) as you see fit. Generally, I seldom make tacos, but the guac and the salsa I love to make myself. I can get the chunks and the  flavors just right that way. 


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