Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sautéed Fish Fillets Meunière with Sauce Grenobloise

It's fish cooked in a light batter, with a sauce of lemon and capers, so simple to make, so delicious. So perfect. So quick. So impressive. 

refers to both a sauce and a method of preparation, primarily for fish. The word itself means "millers wife". Thus to cook something a la meuniére means to cook it by first dredging it in flour. The sauce, or even known as Grenobloise is a simple preparation— brown butter, lemon wedges, chopped parsley, and capers.

This recipe calls for the fish to be soaked in milk for 30 minutes or more, and I wondered why. After doing some research and giving it some thought, these were the two reasons I thought made sense— 1. it reduces the 'fishy' odor. If you bought fresh fish, it shouldn't have a 'fishy' odor, but by the time it makes it way home from the market, in your car, to your fridge, it may develop a stronger smell. By soaking it in milk, the milk absorbs the chemical (trimethylamine oxide) and 2. it helps create a nice soft and light batter once it is dredged in the flour. Furthermore, some state that soaking the filet in milk, helps result in a softer and flakier fish.

Chef Sara Moulton, thank you for this recipe. It will surely be a repeat dinner in our home!

 Makes 4 servings
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total preparation time: 40 minutes

Four 6-ounce pieces, skinless, mild-flavored fish fillets, such as trout, tilapia, or catfish
2 cups milk 
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Grenobloise Sauce (recipe below)

1. Cover the fish with the milk, cover, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
2. Drain the fish, discarding the milk. Season the pieces with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick or stick resistant skillet over moderately high heat.
4. Dredge fish in a pie plate filled with flour, or dust flour on the fillets, using a small fine mesh sieve. (This is my cooks tip to avoid wasting the extra flour. Dust from at least 8-inches above, to create an even coating of flour).
3. Place the pieces in the skillet and sauté them, turning once, for 3 minutes per side, or until they are golden and almost cooked through. Transfer the fillets to dinner plates and cover them with foil to keep them warm. Make the Grenobloise Sauce in the same skillet you cooked the fish. Spoon some of the sauce over each portion and serve.

Sauce Grenobloise
1 lemon
2 – 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons drained brined capers
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1. Remove the peel and pith from the lemon with a serrated knife and cut the lemon into sections.
2. Add the butter to the same skillet that the fish was cooked; cook, stirring, until it turns a deep brown and smells nutty, about 3 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and stir in lemon pieces, capers, and parsley; swirl skillet to combine. Spoon sauce over fish. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spagetti in Parchment with Clams and Scallions

This dish me back to my honeymoon in Italy, spaghetti with clams, and several bottles of wine, by the Trevi Fountain. Nearly seven years later, I made this for my husband (I recently developed a allergy *sniff* to shellfish), so although I didn't get to eat it, I did thoroughly enjoy the wine! This is a great date night dinner to make, or even for a dinner party. Since you can make the spaghetti ahead as Sara Molten suggests, you just have to bake it in the parchment paper before serving it, which you sip wine and pick on some prosciutto and Italian cheeses of your choice.

Sara Molten says in her note to this recipe: The pasta in this dish cooks twice, so be sure to undercook it when you first boil it. Then when it bakes in the parchment, it will absorb all the briny, garlicky, wine-soaked, chile-flecked juices from the seafood. That's how you create flavor! It also helps to use fresh scallions from the farmers' market. Better yet, use ramps when they are in season. You can also replace the clams with cockles and serve this with grated Parmesan if you like. 

Serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Adapted from Sara Molten's Weeknight Meals, Season 3
12 ounces boxed dried spaghetti
8 tablespoons olive oil
4 scallions, trimmed and top quarter removed, sliced crosswise
4 cloves garlic, smashed
50 to 60 small clams, scrubbed
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup water
½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
  2. Drop in the pasta, quickly return to a boil, and cook until slightly underdone and chewy, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving the pasta water.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and cook until soft but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the clams, wine, pepper flakes, and water. Cover and simmer until the liquid reduces in volume by about half, 5 minutes. When the clams have opened, discard the garlic and any empty clam shells.
  4. Add the drained pasta to the pan along with the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil and the parsley. Cook over medium heat, tossing until the sauce gets a little creamy.
  5. Tear 4 sheets of parchment paper, each about 2 feet long. Place one-fourth of the pasta mixture in the center of each sheet of parchment. Bring the long sides of the parchment up above the pasta so the edges meet. Fold the edges together and keep folding down until tight over the pasta. Flip over and pull each side of parchment over the center to make a tight packet. Flip back over so the folded seam side is up.
  6. Transfer the packets to a baking sheet and bake until the paper browns lightly, 5 to 7 minutes. If you have convection, turn it on to help the paper brown. Transfer to plates and allow guests to slit open the packets lengthwise with a knife.
Cooks Tip: The spaghetti can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Banana-Walnut Upside Down Cupcakes

Ripe bananas in our kitchen usually end up in a delicious banana bread or when I am trying to be 'healthier' low-fat banana bread. But this time round the three ripe bananas brought about  the making of these cupcakes. A recipe in Bon Appétit and my mothers fool-proof eggless sponge cake recipe, inspired these cupcakes.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Makes 12-15 cupcakes

For the topping
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 large ripe bananas
3 tablespoons maple syrup 

For the cupcakes
1/2 cup unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
7-oz condensed milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
4-oz water

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C.
  2. Grease a muffin pan with butter.
  3. Melt butter and sugar over low-heat. Chop walnuts. Slice bananas into 1/4-inch slices.
  4. Mix together all the cake ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Pour 1 tablespoon of the butter-sugar mixture onto the base. Pour 1/4-inch tablespoon maple syrup over the sugar mixture. Top with an even sprinkle of nuts. Place 3 slices of banana, overlapping slightly and covering bottom.
  6. Spoon cake batter over the bananas. 
  7. Bake cupcakes for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let it cook for 10 minutes before removing cupcakes.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bhatura (Puffed Yogurt Bread)

My friend Vicky Mahtani made these bhaturas for us a few years ago, and it was heavenly. She taught me her mothers recipe years ago. Through the years as I kept making these Bhaturas (or Vicky’s Bhatura’s as we call them at home) the recipe has changed. 

Bhaturas are usually made with potato (instead of the yogurt used below) and with baking powder and soda (instead of the yeast used in this recipe). However, these changes give it a fluffy and soft texture that is hard to resist! Serve with Chana Masala and you will be in heaven!

Prep time: 10 minutes (plus one hour for the dough to rise)
Cook time: 1–2 minutes per Bhatura
Makes 16 

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

3 tablespoons warm water

1 cup plain yogurt
Vegetable oil, for frying

  1. In a large mixing bowl mix flour, salt and 1 tablespoon oil with your hands, until it resembles the texture bread crumbs.
  2. In a small bowl stir yeast and water until completely dissolved.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the yogurt and yeast mixture. Knead into the flour until the dough collects into a sticky mass. Add little water if needed to still combine the dough.
  4. Coat your hands with a tablespoon of oil and knead the dough until shiny and not too sticky, for about 10 minutes.
  5. Tightly cover the bowl with shrink wrap and let it rest for an hour or more in a cool dark place (I put it in an unheated oven).
  6. When the dough has risen or doubled in volume, punch down the dough, knead gently and divide into 16 equal portions.
  7. Preheat oil in a deep frying pan and roll each ball into 6-inch circles.
  8. When the oil is hot, gently slip each disc into the oil. Press the Bhatura with a slotted spoon a few times to help it puff up. Turn in 10 seconds and let it cook for another 5 seconds. Remove using a slotted spoon and drain excess oil on a paper towel.

Deep Frying Tips: Choose a deep, very heavy bottomed skillet to fry with. Add oil to the cold pan, leaving a headspace, or space at the top of the pan, of at least two inches. This allows a safety margin when the oil bubbles up as the food is added.
Make sure the food you are going to fry is dry. Letting it sit on paper towels, or coating it in flour or bread crumbs is a good way to ensure this.
The oil is ready when a piece of bread dropped into the oil rises to the top and browns in 60 seconds.
Do not over crowd the pan! This will drop the temperature of the oil.
Do not reuse the cooking oil. Let the oil cool completely and then discard.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chicken and Snake Bean Stir-Fry

For several years, I have had an allergy to monosodium glutamate (MSG), which made eating out at Chinese restaurants difficult. Many restaurants today do not use MSG, many oblige and make you food without MSG, but I still found myself uncomfortable after a Chinese meal at any restaurant that obliged. Having grown up in India eating a lot of Chinese food (my mother grew up in Singapore and brought those flavors to our table), I didn't want to be deprived. Ching-He Huang's book, Ching's Chinese Food In Minutes, changed my (Asian) kitchen life! Incredible, easy, and quick recipes.

I had a few basic recipes down, such as Chicken and Broccoli, Simple Egg Fried Rice, Sweet Corn Chicken Soup. Her book helped me get more diverse with my Chinese cooking.

The other thing that I love about her recipes is that when she says a recipe will take 10 minutes to make, she means it! I managed to stir-fry this dish today while singing to keep my two-year-old son entertained. Served with brown rice, it is a healthy and balanced meal to have.

If you're buying chicken directly from your butcher you can ask him to cut in into thin strips to reduce your prep time even further. FreshDirect.com also sells chicken sliced into strips.

Ching says, "This is a stir-fry inspired by a lunch I had with 'Ah-e' (Aunty) in Beijing. She cooked a simple but delicious chicken and snake bean stir-fry, and this is my quick version."

Prep time: 5 minutes (plus 20 minutes soaking / marinating)
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves 2

250 grams / 9 oz skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
1 teaspoon Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch)
2 tablespoons groundnut oil (peanut oil)
1 garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
1 dried Chinese mushroom, pre-soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained and sliced
100 grams snake beans (Snake beans can be found in the vegetable section of a good Chinese supermarket, or use some trimmed French beans as a substitute)
50 grams / 2 oz toasted cashew nuts (I used peanuts instead, as a personal preference)
25 ml / 1 fl oz hot chicken stock
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
a dash of toasted sesame oil
1 pinch of ground white pepper

  1. Marinate the chicken in the rice wine or sherry and the dark soy sauce for 10-15 minutes (while the mushroom soaks)
  2. Just before cooking, dust the chicken lightly with cornflour. Heat a wok over a high heat and add the groundnut oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add the garlic and mushroom and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the chicken and stir-fry for a few minutes until slightly browned.
  3. Add the beans and stir-fry for 2 minutes until tender, then add the nuts.
  4. Add the hot stock and season wtih the light soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper.
    Serve immediately.
Cook's tip: This was delicious when served immediately. I tried the left overs at night, and it was a bit dry.
To revamp it, add a sauce to it.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon chili sauce, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1/2 cup water. Add 1/2 teaspoon cornflour, mix until smooth. In a hot wok bring the sauce to a boil, add left over chicken for a minute or two and remove.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Shaved-Radish Tea Sandwiches with Herb Butter

A cup of perfectly brewed tea (yes brewed, no tea bags), a slice of moist banana bread, a delicious tea sandwich, yummy scones, and you have yourself a great afternoon tea menu. The tea sandwiches I usually make are cucumber, smoked salmon, egg or chicken salad sandwiches. When BonAppetit.com shared this recipe with radishes, I had to try it! 

The recipe called for baguette bread but I used the wheat sandwich bread I had at home instead. I do think it would be better with the baguette bread instead. 

Since I was serving vegetarians, I avoided the anchovy fillets in the ingredient list below.

Makes 16 servings
Adapted from BonAppetit.com May 2012

1/2 cup (1 stick) room-temperature salted butter
5 mashed drained anchovy fillets
1 grated small garlic clove
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

32 slices of baguette, diagonally cut 1/8-inch thick

12 very thinly sliced radishes
16 green radish leaves

  1. In a small bowl, mix the butter with the next six ingredients. Season with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Spread herb butter on one side of each of the 32 slices of the baguette.
  3. Top half the slices with 16 green radish leaves and radish slices.
  4. Top with remain bread slices, butter side down.

Cooks' Tip: Drape plastic wrap over the prepared sandwiches until serving. It will keep the bread from drying out. And you get to make the sandwiches ahead and enjoy your tea and party.

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Ginger

Christmas baking season has come to an end, and this banana bread was the finale to baking for the holidays, for when we celebrated our sons second birthday. And who does not love banana bread? Have it with your tea in the evening, or a slice with a smear of butter for breakfast. 

This bread was delicious and moist. I read this recipe on PurpleFoodie.com (absolutely love her blog!) and the idea of crystallized ginger in the bread sounded fabulous to me. However, when I mentioned it to the people I was serving this bread to, they all were very skeptic. So below, find my variation of adding the ginger into the bread anyway! 

You can store the banana bread for a up to a week at room temperature or freeze it for 6 months. That is, if you even have any left to freeze! 

1 large loaf that serves 8

Dry ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder
2 teaspoons ginger powder
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt 

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips 

Wet ingredients
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (approximately 3 large ripe bananas)
1/4 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons / 3 oz. / 90 grams unsalted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350F / 170C
  2. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter and flour or with baking spray. 
  3. In a small bowl melt the butter in the microwave for 20–30 seconds. Set aside to cool. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the chocolate chips. Set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork and add the remaining wet ingredients. Mix well. 
  6. Pour the wet banana mixture into the dry ingredients and gently fold in the batter with a silicon spatula, incorporating all the dry ingredients until it looks like it has come together. Do not over mix the batter, it's okay if it looks lumpy. Over mixing the batter kills the air bubbles in the batter and makes it heavier.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 50–60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  8. Let the banana bread cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to the cooling rack. 
In baking, to "fold" is the term used for gently a light ingredient or mixture with a much heavier mixture, while retaining as much as air as possible, by not bursting the air bubbles.
Method: Carefully cut through the mixture with the edge of the spatula, working in a gentle figure of eight and mixing the bowl as you go.
Scrape around the sides and base of the bowl at intervals to incorporate all of the lighter ingredients into the mixture.