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Red Bean & Coconut Oil Pastry Mooncake

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This is an accidentally-vegan recipe, where the coconut oil substitution is applied as an upgrade to the traditional lard - and it worked out better than I hoped!

A little background...

why traditional pastry calls for lard

Recipes tend to call for the same fat in lean dough and the oil dough for simplicity. But only the oil dough has finicky requirements. it calls for a fat that is solid at room temperature, but is very soft and easy to handle. Because the oil dough mixes the fat with flour in the oil layer for ease of handling (vs pure butter in western puff pastry, that requires chilling in between turning), it also requires pure fat to puff right - that's why supermarket butter, with its 20% water content, does not work very well for this application.

what are acceptable substitutions

Store bought lard has a melting point of 97~113F - you want to pick a fat with relatively high melting point like this, for ease of handling, as the temperature from your hand will warm up the dou…

Moon festival treat: savory mooncake (aka puff pastry wrapped meatball)

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Moon festival is a holiday celebrated all over east Asia, where families gather together around mid-autumn to watch the full moon, and eat snacks (because a harvest is expected soon!) 

Mooncakes come in sweet and savory. Today I'm sharing a savory version, basically ginger-scallion-soy meatballs wrapped in flakey pastry. This is a quick puff with a lean dough and a fat dough - no chilling or resting needed!

Ingredients:

Pastry: 
Lean dough:
1 cup flour
2.5 tbsp lard
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup warm water

Fat dough:
3 tbsp lard
2/3 cup flour

Meatball:
marinade:
2 scallions
1 inch thumb-sized ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce 
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp sesame oil 
1/2 tbsp shaoxin wine
1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1/4 tbsp ground white pepper
1 cup ground pork (or 80% lean beef)
1/4 cup water

optional: egg wash (1 yolk + 1tbsp water)

Instructions:

Combine the ingredients for lean dough with a fork, then switch to a spatula. The dough will be very sticky at this stage. Let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile…

Fluffy, Pillowy, Foolproof Instant Mashed Potato Gnocchi

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If you've ever bought pre-made, shelve-stable, room-temperature packaged gnocchi, you've been disappointed before. They're always gummy with very little potato taste. I wish it were easier to like the much more convenient substitute. God knows how many times I failed at making the legendary light-as-cloud, fluffy, pillowy gnocchi. I've made enough batches that were colossal waste of time and ingredients, I could hear Gordon Ramsay yelling in my head.

Truth be told I kinda know why. But honestly, who measures Idaho potatoes by the grams?! How big do you consider a "medium potato" to be? Do you bake your potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil, or microwave them with a lid on? What is a good amount of water loss? What is a proper amount of dusting flour? What does it even mean to work just until the dough comes together?!

If you've shared my frustrations, this is a recipe for you! It recently dawned on me that potato gnocchi are finicky because the wetness of…

Minimalist Miso Marinated Chilean Seabass

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Chilean seabass is my favorite seafood of all time. It is basically the wagyu of the sea. You can't see the marbling but you can taste the flavor - tender, succulent, delicious with the simplest preparation. 
Because this fish is naturally rich as is, I always find it bit wasteful dousing it in butter, when it'll grill in its own fat with no added oil, and come out every bit as moist and flavorful.

This minimalist, hard-to-forget recipe really brings out the best natural flavor from the fish. If you can't find Chilean seabass in store, this marinade works just as well with salmon, cod, or branzino.  You can pan sear this after marinading, but for larger portions oven bake is really convenient and grease-free; you won't even need any added oil!

Ingredients:

2 seabass fillets (~5oz portions) 
2 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp sake
4 tbsp mirin
1 tsp sugar

suggested sides:
- roasted or poached vegetables: bok choy, string beans, snow peas, asparagus
- something starch…

Instant Pot Soy Braised Beef Shank

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This is a simplified (& speed up) version of a classic Chinese dish.
Shank is an economy cut of beef full of tendon, which contains large amount of collagen. It is super tough when quick-seared, but melts apart when slow cooked. Cooked down tendon adds richness and body to a stew, despite being surprisingly low fat and high protein. This budget cut is very flavorful when cooked with some patience. They usually take 90 minutes ~ 2 hours stove top, but a pressure cooker can get it done in ~35 minutes.

Ingredients:

marinade: 
1/4 cup soy paste
1 tbsp of brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground star anise
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground numbing pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp crushed ginger
1/4 tsp crushed garlic

2lb beef shank, lightly salted on all sides
4~6 cups water, add enough for braising liquid to cover the beef

add to braising liquid:
4 orange peels (about that of 1/4 medium orange)
3 bay leaves
2 whole hot chili peppers

notes:
*jarred crushed ginger and garlic are perfect …

Cherry Almond Tart (Frangipane)

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It's cherry season again! Everything about the plant from the blossoms to the fruits makes humanity write poems mourning fleeting youth and short-lived good times. Hope you're seizing the season this year! Binge on them while you can!

Fresh cherries always feel too good for me to throw into a turnover or syrupy pie, where they'll end up tasting a lot like frozen. If I'm baking cherries it needed to be recipe that somewhat preserves the texture and makes fresh fruits shine. This is my version of slightly lighter-than-traditional frangipane, to help you celebrate the summer harvest. If you don't have cherries, any stone fruit (such as peach or plum) will work just as well.

Ingredients: (enough for two shallow 9-inch tart)

For the crust:
1 stick cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg

For the filling:
1 stick softened butter
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 flour
2 eggs
1 cup fresh cherries


Instruction:

Start with the crust: Cut butt…

Easy Fancy: Budget Truffle Pasta

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Truffle pasta is easily among everyone's favorite memories of Italy. It is simple to make, and ridiculously expensive in restaurants, which makes it perfect for home cooking. As far as ingredients go, this recipe is a tad more costly than cacio e pepe, but very much reasonable, as it uses jarred truffle, which cost a fraction of the fresh stuff. A $20 jar of whole or sliced truffles could easily make 5~6 servings. Keep in mind jarred truffle won't be as wonderfully aromatic as fresh, and whole truffles have kind of a hard, brittle texture. They won't infuse into the pasta very quickly, yet you want to avoid tossing them too much. For best presentation & flavor, thinly shave the truffles and soak the slices in a good olive oil. Let the olive oil pick up the truffle scent and soften the slices a little. The olive oil will help infuse the truffle flavor to the pasta sauce, and softened slices are less likely to break.

Try this next time you want to impress your guests! …