Showing posts from 2019

Single-Serve Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington is easily among the holiday favorites. This crowd pleaser dish can be finicky to nail. If ingredients aren't properly wrapped and chilled, you risk leakage that would turn the pastry soggy. Exact baking time of the wrapped dish varies with the size of the roast - the steak can easily be over-baked by the time the pastry is puffed, or pastry can be burned while the steak is still raw. Practice makes perfect, but buying whole tenderloins to practice can get expensive.

This is my shortcut to get the same dining experience at a fraction of the time & investment, with the added perk that you don't have to wait for a big gathering to enjoy the dish. These individual beef wellingtons can easily be made on any weekday night. No wrapping, no tricky timing, no need to buy a whole tenderloin and risk ruining it. Each component is cooked individually & reassembled. I'm making a minimalist version here, feel free to add Parma ham and/or pate if that's how …

3 Ingredient Pumpkin Mochi, Halloween Treat Made Easy!

This is an unforgettably easy mochi recipe. It will work with  any type of sweet pumpkin/squash - butternut, acorn, kabocha, whatever you have at hand. The core of pumpkin mochi boils down to 2 ingredients: pumpkin, and mochiko, in 2:1 ratio by weight. Everything else is really optional.

I'm making this with a black sesame paste filling, because black & orange just feels more Halloween. But feel free to skip the hassle, this works great with store bought red bean paste or edible cookie dough (the pasteurized kind without baking soda). You can also just skip the fillings altogether and just slice and pan fry the dough, if you're not entertaining anyone.


mochi dough:
1/2 lb butternut squash (or kabocha/acorn)
1 cup mochiko, aka sticky rice flour
2~4 tbsp maple syrup *

black sesame filling:
1/4 cup black sesame
1/4 cup walnut pieces
2~3 tbsp brown sugar - or to taste
2 tbsp coconut oil **

* you can use any sweetener, honey, brown sugar, agave, zero calorie sweetne…

Dry-Aged Prime NY Strip with Bercy Butter, Red Wine Pan Sauce, & Almost-Instant Roasted Potatoes!

This is a rare splurge that's worth every penny. I decided to make a full steakhouse meal with all the usual "steak enhancements" - flavored butter, sauce, side, with a few shortcuts.

First of all, stop waiting half an hour or more for cold butter to soften. you can fully soften a brick-hard cold fridge butter in under half a minute. The trick is to microwave 5 seconds at a time, and keep turning 90 degree in between intervals. Microwaves work essentially in sine waves. By rotating lengthwise in intervals, you're changing the heat direction from up-and-down to front-and-back every few seconds. This will allow even heating, so no part gets too hot while the other parts are cold. You should be able to fully soften your butter in 20~25 seconds, depending on how cold your fridge is. Give it a pinch after 20 seconds to test softness.

Bercy butter is basically bercy sauce in butter form. I'm omitting the white wine and stock, since I'm already making a pan sauce …

Red Bean & Coconut Oil Pastry Mooncake

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)

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!


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

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)


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

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

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!


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

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.


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

*jarred crushed ginger and garlic are perfect …

Cherry Almond Tart (Frangipane)

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


Start with the crust: Cut butt…

Easy Fancy: Budget Truffle Pasta

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! …

Weekday Pho, Half-assing FTW

I made a big-ass bone-in ribeye the day before, because I could not pass up a good sale, and there's something inexplicably satisfying about cutting into a steak that is ridiculously thick, at least to my husband. Unfortunately this indulgence left us with quite a bit of leftover.

This is my newest hack to deal with medium-cooked, not-so-easy-to-reheat leftover steak: shortcut pho with powdered spices and boxed broth. The whole thing takes less than half an hour to prepare, curbs the craving, and makes great use of leftover meat and/or herbs. This is a quick alternative to spending 3~5 hours making the real-deal broth. The spice combination will get the basic flavor profile there. Give this a try next time you crave pho on a weekday night!


1 tsp crushed ginger (jarred or frozen perfectly fine)
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp star anise powder
1/4 tsp fennel seed powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tbsp oil

1 quart beef bone broth
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp …

Homemade Herbs de Provence & Tomato Mustard Tart

Tomato mustard tart is a classic French dish that is perfect for summer. It is surprisingly complex in flavor despite simplicity in preparation. You wouldn't think fresh tomatoes goes on crusty pastry, and you wouldn't think you'd like to be punched in the nose by what looks like way too much mustard. (and trust me nose-punch it will - but you will like it!) The whole concept defies reasoning. It looks like pizza without sauce & sounds like hamburger without meat. But this stuff is seriously addicting. Try it once and you'll be hooked!

I'm making a smaller tart with half a sheet of pastry because I really prefer this tart hot & don't enjoy it as much re-heated. Feel free to double the portion if you're serving a large party.


1/2 sheet of puff pastry
4 tbsp dijon mustard (or however much it takes to spread the entire tart with a thick layer)
4 tbsp grated parmigiano reggiano
2 tsp herbs de provence (*see recipe & notes below) 

Shortcut Curry: Chicken & Egg Masala

I like my Indian food like I like my Szechuan food: it's not right unless it's a spice level above my comfort zone. I expect to be reaching for napkins and ice water. For this reason, jarred curry sauces are far more often disappointing than satisfying to me. If I wanted a curry that does not make me sweat I would be making a Japanese curry (which is also absolutely delicious, just an entirely different dish that doesn't curb the right craving).

Making my own Indian curry entirely from scratch, however, is still a tad more hassle than I would have liked at the end of a workday. So reviving the jarred sauce is a happy median for me. My Indian ex-roommate once taught me how to make Kerala-style egg roast. Turns out the secret is just onions and 3 powders. (She may very well have gone with a shortcut, as one would expect of a busy nyc professional.)  If you ever debated between chicken and egg curry at an Indian restaurant as I too often do, here's the awesome part of h…

One Can, Two Treats - Easy Hummus & Matcha Aquafaba Ice Cream!

Stop over paying for hummus! Your store brand canned garbanzo bean can make a hummus as good, if not much better than the pre-made stuff more than triple its price. The whole process takes no more than 5 minutes. What's better - you can control what goes into your hummus - how much salt, oil, what kind of spice, etc. I blended my garbanzo bean with no added oil, and it's perfectly creamy without any added fat. Of course, I topped my hummus with spice and herbs and a final drizzle of EVOO for the pictures, but it is seriously optional for taste/texture. I didn't think low fat hummus would taste as good but it does! (<-- if you need any more incentive to make your own hummus at home!)

As a byproduct, the drained bean liquid, aka 'aquafaba' (or 'bean water'),  can be whipped into a smooth meringue. Do it for amusement, impress your vegan friends, or just give it a try to satisfy your inner hippie/cheapo for utilizing what seems like pure waste. I will say …

Easier Financiers, in proportions you can't forget!

This is an updated version of my previously posted financiers. I made these for a potluck and everyone wanted recipe! I tweaked these for an easier-to-remember recipe. Just half the dry ingredients each time, plus butter and egg-whites. Super easy to remember, as easy as they are to make!


6 egg whites
1 stick butter, browned
1 cup almond powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 flour


Heat butter on medium low heat until browned. Add almond powder & sugar to egg whites. Mix until combined. Add brown butter; mix well. Finally add flour, lightly whisk until just combined. Fill the molds ~2/3 of the way through; spread batter out evenly with a skewer if needed. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes. If using metal molds, unmold while warm; if using silicon mold, broil the cakes up-side-down for 3~5 minutes after unmolding for a crispy edge.

Video Instruction:

Useful tools: silicon mold: non-stick metal mold: bulk metal mold: https://amzn.…

Venetian-Style Squid Ink Pasta (spaghetti al nero di seppia)

Impress your guests with this exotic dish that is deceptively simple! Derived from my best memory of Venice (and out of necessity here in the US - difficult to find outside nyc or sf, & pretty much impossible to get it on the cheap). This recipe can be done in 15 minutes.

As usual, this is the lazy bum's approach - I'm not cleaning a cuttlefish and collecting ink. Buy a jar of squid ink from your local whole foods (or similar specialty grocery, or amazon) and get pre-cleaned cuttlefish - previously frozen is perfectly fine. Get the pasta boiling and start with a sofrito base; saute squid or cuttlefish in the base; add squid ink and a broth (I'm using clam juice, seafood stock or even vegetable broth would work just as well)

A sofrito is a blend of aromatics, I would say the only essential component here is olive oil, garlic, and onions. You can dial back the tomatoes and pepper if you're not a big fan of sweet and spicy, or if you have an empty pantry. (Tomato pas…

Quick, Light, & Satisfying Weekday Dinner: One-Pot Beef Udon

A trip to Japan had us hooked on beef udon. We ate to our heart's content and somehow still lost weight on the trip. After pigging out during Chinese New Year, we went on the udon 'diet' for a week. I was happy this is an easy one-pot meal to prepare after work, and the husband was delighted at warm noodle soup on cold winter night.


1 lb beef, thinly sliced
1 scallion, chopped

2 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar

broth: * for 2 servings
2 cups water 
2 tsp dashi powder (dehydrated kelp & fish stock)
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp soy sauce

2 pack frozen udon

recommended sides:
crispy hash browns
poached eggs


Whisk marinade ingredients together; rub thinly sliced beef in marinade and let it sit for 5~10 minutes. Stir fry the scallion until lightly browned. Add the beef and cook on medium high, until meat is no longer red and surface is slightly charred; about 4~6 minutes. Remove the beef & add 2 cups of water to t…

Celebrate Chinese New Year with Easy Eight-Treasure Rice & Steamed Rice Cakes!

I made a basket of hometown goodies for a Chinese New Year party, and my non-hometown coworkers requested recipes! Here are 2 simplified version of traditional southern Chinese rice desserts with my own twists. 

Eight-treasure rice: (missing many common 'treasures', but lotus seed and picked plums are kinda out of everyone's way to get; there are no hard rules anyways, as long as you have 8 ingredients it counts, & even if you don't it's just as delicious!)


for the rice:
1/2 cup forbidden rice
1/2 cup purple sticky rice
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp butter

for the filling:
2oz purple yam
2 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp brown sugar (or to taste, depending on how sweet your yam is)

toppings: dates & walnut

Cook the forbidden rice & purple sticky rice together in a rice cooker. Use the brown rice setting if you have it.
While the rice is cooking, make the filling. Slice & steam a purple yam for ~20 min, or until softened. Smash it w…

Simplified Bibimbap, No Special Ingredients Required!

This is my slightly simplified version of Bibimbap, a Korean rice bowl with meat & assorted vegetable sides. The original dish itself isn't super complicated, but some ingredients may be harder to find in US groceries. Traditionally the marinade would call for Asian pear and the sides would include vegetables that would require a trip to specialty stores. My recipe tries to stay with ingredients that are more ubiquitous. Obviously feel free to adjust your sides and grate a quarter Asian pear into your marinade if you can find those ingredients.


4 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp mirin
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup minced onion

1~1.5lb thinly sliced ribeye or short rib

Recommended sides:
sliced oyster mushroom
thinly peeled carrots, blanched
baby spinach, blanched (easier & more tender, regular is fine too)
julienned cucumber (English or Persian cucumbers preferred; regular is fine …

Cajun Steak Fajita

Upgrade your boxed-taco Tuesday with this fusion-spiced fajita!

Disclaimer: will fail every purity test & may offend traditionalist. This is Tex-Mex with a melting-pot twist. I know Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce may look questionable and cinnamon sounds straight up wtf to some. But together they give the dish that je ne sais quoi, that reminds you a little of the meat in a shepard's pie, a little of a Chinese soy braise, and a little of a Jamaican jerk rub.

You can quadruple the spice blend, swapping teaspoon with tablespoon, & store in an 8oz jar. It's good for tacos, shrimps, blacked chicken or salmon, or jarred gifts!


Spice blend:
2 tsp cumin2 tsp chili powder2 tsp paprika2 tsp garlic salt2 tsp onion powder2 tsp dried oregano1 tsp coriander1/2 tsp black pepper1/4 tsp red pepper flakes1/4 tsp cinnamon Marinade:
4 tbsp spice blend4 tbsp oil1 tsp Worcestershire sauce1 tsp soy sauce Meat & Veggies: 1.5 lb flank or skirt steak1 large onion, preferably…