Showing posts from 2020

Sous Vide Duck Confit, in a Slow Cooker! No additional fat or special gadget needed!

As with many French classic dishes, duck confit (confit de canard) is an incredibly decadent treat that is unfortunately a huge hassle to make. Confit means to cure in salt & cook in its own fat (or in its literal definition, "to preserve"). Duck confit are traditionally made by curing duck legs in salt & spice and submerging them in large amount of duck fat, slow cook in fat & aromatics at below boiling temperature for extended period of time, for a soft, buttery texture. It's like oil poaching on steroid. The dish generally needs to be then chilled over night so that the falling-apart tender meat would firm up enough for that final sear, for that signature crispy skin that really makes the dish perfect. 
Time consuming aside, what makes this dish borderline prohibitive for home cooking is that duck fat isn't easily accessible, and even when you can find them, they aren't cheap. Naturally this makes the sous vide method an appealing alternative. Beca…

Make Pad Thai from Jarritos Tamarind Soda!

Two conundrums we've all come across at some point: missing essential ingredient for a dish that you love but don't make often enough, & trouble finishing a 2-liter soda before it goes flat. Here's to killing two birds with one stone!There is no real substitute for tamarind. Trying to make Pad Thai without tamarind is sorta like trying to make lemon tart without lemon. It's a fruit with a signature tang and its own special flavor. Tamarind pods are both tricky to find and tricky to handle. My local Whole Foods and Wegmans carry them - often sold in boxes much bigger than needed. They also can't be used straight out of the box. You'll need to soak the pods in hot water, dig your hand in and squeeze everything into a pulp, strain that through a mesh sieve, and cook it down into a paste. Worth the trouble if you make Thai food weekly, but not the easiest fix for sudden cravings. Tamarind Soda, unlike the fruit that it's made from, is ubiquitous and inexpen…

Fried Olives!

Fried. Olives. This dish requires no further selling than its name. I used to squander so much of my work-study paycheck at this snooty campus restaurant just for their fried olives. Zero regret to this day. And they didn't even use the good stuff! You can take a small jar of plain store brand pimento stuffed manzanilla olives, strain, coat in bread crumb and fry for half a minute. It'll cost you ~$2 in ingredients and maybe 5 minutes of time. Think of it, I really should regret those spending a little. For an upgrade, I'm stuffing my favorite olive bar ingredients together: castelvetrano olives & peppadew peppers! Castelvetrano are my 'gateway' olives. As someone who took a long time to 'acquire' a taste for olives, castelvetrano was love at first try. They're mild, subtle, yet buttery & olive-y at the same time. The bright green color are just so pleasant to look at. In contrast with the green olives, in more than just the colors, peppadew is …

Amarena Cinnamon Black Forest Cake Roll

Chocolate cake is a bit like pizza sauce, not hard to make tasty, but hard to make special. This is my take on black forest. This is a soft sponge that doesn't require whipping eggs. The chocolate isn't overpowering. The cake itself should have just a hint of tartness, and a hint of what's-that spice. Your friends won't quite know exactly what's in it, but they'll know it's good and it's not like the other chocolate cakes they've had.
This recipe is inspired by the question - what can I do with yogurt flavors I don't love? We all know someone that doesn't love vanilla yogurt. I happen to have some cinnamon vanilla Chobani from my Costco variety pack when the question came up. I have since tested the same recipe on strawberry, raspberry, and cherry yogurt. All work very well in a chocolate cake! Just one more thing you can do with any 5oz cup of yogurt - make a healthy light dessert!


dry ingredients:
1/2 cup all purpose flour

Tomato Tarte Tatin - Make an Already Simple Classic Even Faster!

This is a faster way to make Tarte a la Moutarde (French Tomato and Mustard Pie). By using the tarte tatin method, you can reduce the cooking time by applying direct heat to the tomatoes, and skipping the par baking step altogether. Most importantly, it allows me to use extra tomatoes (my favorite part of the whole dish), without having to worry about soggy crust. 

I'm making mine with Campari tomatoes. They are sweet and flavorful, but not sinfully expensive. I don't have the heart to cook those beautiful heirloom tomatoes. It feels like cooking sashimi cut fish. halved tomatoes retains juice well. Tomato juice will be mostly trapped between tomato skin and layer of melted Parmesan cheese. You'll have a wonderfully moist and flavorful tart that's still perfectly puffed.

6~8 campari tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp herbs de province
1 tsp fresh basil
1 sheet puff pastry or pie dough.


Salade Nicoise - Eat Healthy, Happily!

I'm sharing my version of salade nicoise. This hearty summer dish originates from the French city of Nice. Modern renditions commonly includes cooked eggs, green bean, potatoes, olives, all the good stuff you can think of. I'm making mine with a quick seared tuna steak, and some not-quite hard boiled eggs.

This looks like a lot of ingredients, but each one takes little time to prep, and with a little multi-threading, you can easily complete this in under 15 minutes. 

Obligatory disclaimer: this is not exactly traditional; will fail purity test. But it makes for a very enjoyable summertime meal. The briny olives and creamy eggs complements the tuna perfectly. The starchiness from the potatoes, freshness of the green bean, and little bite from the shallot, just all work so well together.

This is one healthy dinner that won't leave you feel remotely deprived!


for the dressing:
1 shallot, minced
1 lemon, juiced
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp fresh grou…

10-minute Saag Aloo (Indian-Style Spanich & Potato Curry)

This is my take on this Indian restaurant favorite. A vibrant green vegetable curry, so flavorful even a carnivore would love it. If you follow my channel or blog you might've guessed, this is yet another, quick shortcut recipe. Get some frozen naan or roti ready and dinner will be ready in 10 minutes!

Usual disclaimer: this is far from authentic, & no offense intended. I've made gnocchi with instant mashed potato mix, and soup dumpling with gelatin & pasta press. This is another one of those quick, easy, hacky fix for lazy foodies in quarantine. I'm microwaving the potato, wilting the spinach, and using jalapeno instead of whatever proper pepper I should've used but don't have easy access to.

4 cups spinach
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 green chili pepper, chopped (I'm using jalapeno)
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp corriander powder
1/2 …

Tofu Dango, As Seen in Anime!

We've all seen these in anime! Dangos are chewy rice balls on skewers. They can be sweet or savory, and prepped with a variety of ingredients. Some use a combination of short grain rice flour & sticky rice flour, some use hot water & kneading, all to achieve a good balance of texture. They should be soft but hold shape, chewy but not too sticky, bouncy and slightly al dente.

A shortcut to making these with minimum experience and effort is to use equal weight silken tofu and mochiko. It won't quite be the stuff you get at a Kyoto tea house, but will yield a pleasant, balanced result, without hand-kneading a steaming hot dough and trying not to get burned.

The dangos themselves are not strongly flavored. They rely on sauces & toppings for flavor. Sort of like fresh homemade pasta - taste great even with the simplest seasoning, but if you don't put anything at all on it, it won't be nearly as enjoyable on its own (think unsalted pasta). If you have access to …

Tomato Paste Pizza Sauce on a No-Knead Dough, Easiest Margherita!

I was gifted a case of tomato paste (6oz cans). It had me hooked on pizza for a month (and ongoing). I will probably never bother to cook down tomato sauce again for pizza sauce. This almost-instant tomato paste pizza sauce is so delightful it's unfair (given how little work went into it). It's good for margherita, tomato pie, and good old classic cheese pizza. It is embarrassingly addicting, such that I had to roll up the edge of the pizza to accommodate the extra sauce too often requested. Happy accident - this yields an extra crispy edge, like a crusty Stromboli, so good that my dog no longer gets pizza crust from the table.

I'm cooking mine at a lower temperature than recommended by conventional recipes. Traditional Neapolitan pizza are cooked in 900 degree ovens, such that the dough is completely cooked before everything else is dried out. To mimic this effect, pizza recipes often call for heating the oven as high as it would go, and using a pizza stone for thermal m…

Stovetop Flan/Custard pudding

Due to social distancing, making large portion decadent desserts no longer feels like a good idea. This is a delicate dessert that is light by nature. Flan has a silky smooth gelatin-like texture that resembles panna cotta, and a rich caramel flavor that resembles creme brulee. But unlike its fancy counterparts, flan requires no heavy cream - just plain milk will do. It is set purely by egg protein, so no gelatin & extended chilling required. When made stove top, it takes only 10 minutes to set (vs 40~60 minutes in the oven). I'm making single-serve for two (or two desserts for one if you aren't sharing). All this takes is one egg, less than a cup of milk, and a few spoonful of sugar. Very quarantine-friendly for those of us who try to avoid grocery shopping as much as possible, and don't have a lot of supplies at home.


for the caramel: 2 tbsp sugar 1 tbsp water 1 tbsp hot water for the flan mixture: 1 egg 2/3 cup milk 2 tbsp sugar


Mix 2 tbsp …

School Lunch Cheese Sticks - You know you miss them!

School lunch cheese sticks were such childhood favorite, I still remember them all these years later, and the fact that we apparently can't buy them easily just makes me want them more. FYI, you can apparently buy max pizza sticks from amazon in bulk - but pack of 192 is bit too much for my freezer. As much as the serving size of 2 sticks at a time in school never felt enough, baking them half a dozen at a time is plenty for my household. My recipe will make at least 6 pizza sticks, with extra dough, that you can trim and make more cheese sticks or mini pizza.

Additionally, I'd like to share a few hacks for minimum-knead, easy same-day pizza dough. No sticky mess, no planning ahead required! First of all, let autolyse take care of most of the kneading for you. Resting a rough dough for at least 20 minutes will yield a dough that is softer, less sticky, and easier to knead to smooth stage, by allowing flour enzyme to work on the protein bond for you. One thing to keep in mind…

Shortcut Soup Dumpling with Gelatin, Pasta Roller, & Cake Ring!

This is a hacky way of making my childhood favorite dim sum. My mother laughed at all my cop-out's, but was delighted at the result. Truth is, while xiaolongbao is an ubiquitous Shanghai specialty, a lot of locals have never actually made it themselves because the traditional way is quite time consuming.

In a nutshell, the soup was added to the dumplings by cooking down pork or chicken collagen until you get a thick enough broth that gelatinizes when cooled. The solid soup jelly is then chopped up and mixed into the meat, which is then wrapped into the dough. When steamed, the jelly dissolves into soup again at high temperature, and you have soup dumpling.

To save you hours of cooking and chilling, my shortcut is to add gelatin into store-bought broth. To further reduce chilling time, warm up only half of the broth needed, dissolve bloomed gelatin in it, and stir in the remaining cold broth into the mixture. This will cool down the mixture a lot faster. My broth was set in abou…

Easy Pao De Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread)

These little cheesy bread are the most unforgettable part of Brazilian Rodizio for me. Made from tapioca starch, it is accidentally gluten-free, with a unique, pleasantly chewy texture, that might lead your guest into thinking this is a lot more work than it is. In reality, these are bread you don't even need to kneed, that takes maybe 5 minutes to prepare and will be ready in half an hour.
Because they are best hot, I recommend making smaller portion that you can finish in a sitting. The recipe I give will fill 12 mini-muffin tins, good for 3~4 servings.

1 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2~1 cup cheese (I use a mix of Parmigiano Reggiano & Cheddar Gruyere)

Heat milk, salt, and oil on stove until bubbling. Pour hot liquid into tapioca starch. Mix until a dough forms. Mix in a beaten egg. Fold in grated cheese. Fill the dough into a well greased mini muffin pan. Bake at 375F for ~25 minutes.

You can skip th…

Easy Instant Pot Pastrami from Corned Beef!

I could never miss a good sale. St Patrick's Day always comes with amazing deals on corned beef. If you'd ever want a change from the usual, crock pot boiled meat, give this super easy homemade pastrami a try!

Since corned beef is already cured, you're just one spice rub away from cooking it. Usually these need to be baked on relatively low heat in the oven for extended time. My inner hippie cringes at the thought of keeping the oven on for 6hrs. This is a short cut recipe using pressure cooker. I'm pressure steaming it in the Instant Pot, without submerging it in water so the flavor doesn't get too diluted. Then I double rub it in spice and finish it in the oven. Overall this is an easily manageable workday recipe, especially for those working from home this St Patrick's Day ;)


2lb corned beef brisket

2 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp mustard powder


French King Cake (Galette des Rois)

This is a popular January dessert, traditionally eaten for epiphany, but I make it all year round. It is a perfect last-minute dessert, for potluck, dinner guest, or work friend's birthday you almost forgot. It will look like more effort than you'd put in.

The whole dish comprises just two components: puff pastry, and frangipane. Egg-wash/decoration completely optional, but strongly recommended - for 30 seconds of effort, it'll look a lot more impressive!


2 sheets of puff pastry (~9-inch)
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup granulated sugar or 3/4 cup powdered sugar
6 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs


Cream butter with sugar just until mixed. Add eggs one at a time, then mix in almond meal and vanilla. Cut out 2 round puff pastry sheets by using a lid or plate as mold. Add the stuffing to the center and spread until there's ~1 inch margin. Brush the margin with egg whites to help the sheets stick. Fold the other sheet of pastry on top.…