Category: Recipes

Thai rice soup with pork balls

Thai rice soup with pork balls

This relatively simple recipe can be done in less than an hour, and makes a rich, filling meal. There are several steps that you can do ahead and none are all that complicated. The original inspirational recipe came from Milk Street, (and is the first one we wanted to actually make). That recipe suggests garnishing the soup with fried shallots. Don’t even try this: it will small up your house for days, and are very hard to keep from burning. You can buy them packaged at Asian markets or online.

The components of this soup are:

  • Jasmine rice
  • Pork balls
  • Soup broth
  • Soft boiled eggs

Jasmine Rice

riceJasmine rice is a delicately scented short grain rice, that you should make first and allow to cool on a plate or baking sheet. You will add it to the soup when the rice is cold, so it doesn’t break up to much when you stir it in. Cook about 1 cup of rice with the package’s amount of water. In our Instant Pot rice cooker, we added 1.25 cups of water and cooked it for only 10 minutes. Open the pot and spread it out to cool.

Soft boiled eggs

eggs coolingSet out 3 eggs. Place a vegetable steamer in a 2 quart sauce pan and fill with water until just below the steamer bottom. Bring the water to a boil, and quickly lower the eggs into the steamer using a slotted spoon. Cover and cook 6.5 minutes. Run cold water into the pan to stop the cooking, empty and add more cold water. Pick up each egg and run cold water on it until no longer warm to the touch. Crack each egg and peel under running water. Set aside the peeled eggs.

Pork balls

  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 1 Tb fish sauce
  • 1 Tb chili-garlic sauce
  • White pepper to taste

pork ballsMix the pork and sauces in a small bowl and make around 10 balls using a small cookie scoop. Put them on a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes or so.

Soup broth

  • 3 Tb lard (or olive oil, or grapeseed oil)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 5 large shallots halved and thinly sliced.
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 lemongrass stalks, bruised to release the flavor, or use lemon zest instead.
  • 2 Tb grated ginger root
  • 5 quarts chicken broth (we used some homemade mixed with canned)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro (or parsley of you are not a cilantro fan)
  • 3 Tb lime juice plus lime wedges
  • 2 Tb fish sauce
  • 1 Tb chili garlic sauce

saute

  1. In a large pot (3 quarts or more) heat the lard and add the shallots and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes
  2. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the lemon grass and ginger and cook until fragrant.
  4. Add the broth and cook at medium heat for about 15 minutes
  5. Remove and discard the lemon grass.
  6. Add the pork meatballs, and cook through, about 4 minutes
  7. Stir in the rice, and cook until heated through.
  8. Off heat, stir in the fish sauce and chili garlic sauce, the cilantro or parsley and the lime juice.

Ladle in bowls and decorate with the halved soft boiled eggs (cut them right in the bowls), lime wedges, and the optional fried shallots. Packaged onion rings are a good substitute, too!

Serve at once to your admiring guests.

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How to hard boil eggs

How to hard boil eggs

Hard boiled (actually hard-cooked) sometimes baffle people who want eggs that are easy to peel. There is so much misinformation out there that making good eggs becomes a huge worry. It’s not.

  • It doesn’t matter whether the eggs are fresh or old.
  • You don’t need to prick the end of the shell.
  • You don’t have to chill them much to make them peel. Just run them under cold water until they aren’t hot any more.

The key trick to making easy-peel eggs is that you start them in or above hot water. We tried all three in this longer article last year. They all work great.

Vegetable steamer

eggs in steamer

For us, the simplest way is to put a vegetable steamer in a pan, and add water till it is just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring the water to a slow boil, and quickly lower the eggs onto the steamer using a slotted spoon.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Then run cold water into the pan, drain it and run cold water in again. Then, refrigerate them until you want to dye them, devil them or eat them.

Instant Pot

eggs in IPYou can make one or two dozen hard cooked eggs at once if you have an Instant Pot or other counter top pressure cooker. Just place a cup of water in the pot, and put your eggs on top of the trivet above the water.  Seal the pot and pressure-cook for 8 minutes.  Do not allow any cool-down time after the 8 minutes as the eggs will continue to cook. Release the pressure immediately, lift out the inner pot and run cold water into it. Rinse and run cold water on them again. They are then ready as above.

Boiling water

You can do this same trick in a pan of slowly boiling water. Bring the water to a boil and then quickly lower the eggs into the water and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain and cool as above.

3 cut open

This photo shows eggs cooked in the vegetable steamer, in a pan and in the Instant Pot 

How to fail

boil failYou can fail and get unpeelable eggs by starting them in cold water whether in a pan or on a trivet. You will also find them slightly harder to peel if you overcook them beyond 10 minutes. The yolks will become quite hard, and the eggs will be less flexible when you try to peel them.

Remember: start with boiling water!

That’s it!  Enjoy your holidays!

English Plum Pudding – using an Instant Pot

English Plum Pudding – using an Instant Pot

Plum pudding is a traditional holiday dessert that goes back hundreds of years. And it doesn’t actually contain plums: just raisins and candied fruit. In the 17th century, “plum” meant any dried fruit. Traditionally, you make it a year ahead so it can age, but even a couple of weeks will do, so don’t worry about getting a late start. You can start another one after the holidays and you’ll be all set for next year, too!

Plum pudding is a steamed pudding, cooked for many hours in a slow oven. We sped this up by using our Instant Pot counter top pressure cooker, to reduce the time to just 2 hours. The recipe we are using is half the original, which makes a slumgullion of pudding, and even then we did it two batches, one in a Mrs Anderson’s Baking  Steamed  Pudding Mold, and a smaller one-hour amount in a small bowl wrapped in foil.

Fruit Mixture

  • ½ lb seedless raisins
  • ½ lb golden raisins
  • ¼ lb currants
  • ½ cup thinly slice citron
  • ½ cup chopped candied peel
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp mace
  • 14 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ lb finely chopped suet (powdery fine)
  • 5/8 cup brandy

Pudding

  • 5/8 cup fresh bread crumbs, (about 2 cups)
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • ½ cup sherry or port
  • 6 eggs, well beaten
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Brandy

Hard Sauce

  • ½ cup softened butter
  • 1 ½ cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or 2 Tb brandy or rum

Beat the softened butter in an electric mixer and slowly add the sugar.  Add the vanilla or brandy and served with the plum pudding.

Making the pudding

  1. Blend the fruits, citron, spices and suet in a bowl or jar.
  2. Add 1/8 cup brandy, cover tightly and refrigerate for 2-4 days, adding more brandy each day.
  3. When ready to mix up the pudding, mix the milk and sherry or port together.
  4. Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk/ wine mixture.
  5. Combine the beaten eggs and sugar and blend with the fruit mixture.
  6. Add salt and mix thoroughly.
  7. Put the pudding in a buttered pudding mold or buttered bowls. With the pudding mold we bought, we get about 2/3 of the batter in it. Cover with foil to seal it and keep out the moisture.
  8. Put a cup of water in the Instant Pot, add the trivet, and place the pudding mold on the trivet.
  9. Seal the Instant Pot, and steam on Manual for 2 hours.
  10. Uncover and place in a 250° F oven for 30 minutes.
  11. Add a dash of brandy to the pudding, and store in a cool place.
  12. Repeat with the remaining batter in a small bowl covered securely with foil.
  13. Allow the pudding to age for a week or two, adding a dash of brandy every day or two.
  14. When ready to serve, reheat in the steamer, and unmold.
  15. Sprinkle with sugar, add heated brandy and ignite.
  16. Serve with hard sauce.

flamed

Holiday ‘Indian’ pudding

Holiday ‘Indian’ pudding

Indian pudding is a simple Colonial era recipe made with corn meal, eggs and molasses. While you can bake it, you get a smoother, creamier pudding if you steam it like other puddings. In this recipe, we used our Instant Pot to steam it quickly. You can also follow the same recipe steaming it in the oven I a water bath.

  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups milk
  • ½ cup corn meal
  • 2 Tb butter
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp dry ginger
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup golden raisns
  • ½ tsp vanilla extact
  • 1 tb butter to grease the pan
  • Vanilla ice cream
  1. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a 3 quart pan, heat the milk to just under a simmer
  3. Slowly add the cornmeal and whisk it in. It should slowly thicken.
  4. Cook for 10 minutes, whisking to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan.
  5. Remove from stove and add all the other ingredients except the eggs and mix in.

6. Temper the eggs by stirring in a cup or so of the milk mixture. Then add the egg mixture back to the milk mixture and stir it in.
7. Pour the mixture into a buttered casserole dish or cake pan that will fit into the Instant Pot.
8. Wrap the dish securely in foil to keep the water out
9. Add 1 cup of water to the pot and place the wrapped dish on top of the trivet.
10. Cook on the Manual setting for 30-45 minutes.

11. The pudding should be somewhat firm, but may still be jiggly in the center.
12. Let the pudding stand for 15 minutes and then serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.

in bowl

If you like the pudding a bit firmer, chill it in the refrigerator, and scoop out pudding into serving bowls and microwave them each for 30 seconds. (See above) Serve with ice cream.

You can also steam the pudding in a 325 ° F oven, sitting in a water bath for about 90 minutes.

 

 

Shrimp scampi carbonara

Shrimp scampi carbonara

If you think Shrimp Scampi is great, imagine it served on spaghetti carbonara instead of boring old spaghetti! This is the the perfect meld of two excellent dishes, resulting in shrimp on a rich, creamy spaghetti base. And the whole recipe still takes only half an hour.

For the scampi

  • One pound large (or larger) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lemon, juiced. Save the zest, too.
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 5 Tb butter
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

For the carbonara

  • 2 strips bacon
  • ½ to 1 lb vermicelli
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

  1. Start by frying the 2 strips of bacon from the carbonara recipe. Cook until dry, and drain on a paper towel. Chop the bacon up and reserve in a small dish. Pour the bacon drippings in the bowl as well.
  2. Rinse out the pan, removing any excess “bacon tracks,” dry and add the olive oil.
  3. Saute the shrimp 2-4 minutes, depending on size. They should be pink and firm, but don’t cook until they shrink. Set the shrimp aside.

 

  1. Add the minced garlic and pepper flakes and a little more olive oil. Saute for a minute or so until fragrant.
  2. Add the lemon juice and wine and cook down for a couple of minutes.
  3. Stir in the butter, a Tb at a time until the sauce is smooth and uniform.
  4. Cook the vermicelli in boiling water until just past al dente. For this recipe, we prefer starting with dried, rather than fresh, pasta, because it will hold more heat for the next step.

 

  1. Drain the pasta and return to a bowl. Using two forks, mix in the eggs one at a time so they cook in the hot pasta.
  2. Add the parmesan cheese and stir in so it begins to melt.
  3. Mix in some or all of the bacon or you can also use steak that you can cut in little pieces following the best filleting tips.
  4. Reheat the shrimp in the sauce, briefly and pour both over the spaghetti.
  5. Sprinkle parsley on top.

There! Done in half an hour or less, and creamily good. Serve ladling the shrimp, sauce and pasta onto each plate.

plated

Buon appetito!

Easy peel hard-boiled eggs

Easy peel hard-boiled eggs

Some people get frustrated when they can’t get the shell of their hard boiled eggs and we’ve done the experiments to tell you what actually works to make them peel easily.

A lot has been written about how to hard boil (actually hard cook) eggs, and much of it is wrong. Bittman suggests that you should put a pinhole in each end of the egg before boiling, but McGee says that studies have shown that this is ineffective. McGee gets two other points wrong though about  fresh eggs and boiling temperature, though, so we tried all these things for you.

Chilling the cooked egg is helpful but less significant. And as for fresh versus older eggs, wait and see!

farmers cowIn this article we used Extra Large eggs from The Farmers Cow cooperative, with a Julian packing date of 238 (August 26) which means they were 3-4 weeks away from the hens when we bought them at Stop and Shop.

Our favorite way to cook 2-4 eggs is to put them in a vegetable steamer over boiling water. This is way easier and safer than putting the eggs right into the boiling water.

  1. Put the steamer in a pan, and add water until just below the surface of the steamer, and bring the water to a boil. Using a big, slotted spoon or a set of tongs, lower the eggs into the steamer basket. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil, and cover the pan for 10 minutes.
  2. Then, remove the pan from the heat and run cold water into it. Dump the water (which is now luke-warm) and add more cold water to chill the eggs. This isn’t supposed to be a big deal, it is just to get the eggs down to a temperature where you can hold and peel them.
  3. Peel each egg under running water. This will wash away any eggshell shards and help separate the egg from the shell. The shells should come right off without sticking.

pan boilAnother simple way is to simply use boiling water without the steamer. Bring the water in a pan to a gentle boil and quickly slip the eggs into the water. Let them cook, covered for 10 minutes as above and cool them the same way. The advantage of this method is that you can get more eggs into the pan. The disadvantage is that it is hard to get a lot of eggs into the pan quickly so they all cook for the same length of time, and if there are too many, they may bump together and crack.

Using the Instant Pot

eggs in IPA third way that works really well is using an Instant Pot or any other counter-top electric pressure cooker.  It’s very simple, but most of the on-line recipes get it wrong, resulting it overcooking or tough eggs. You put the trivet in the Instant Pot (or use a vegetable steamer) and add one cup of water. Then add all the eggs you want (you could do a dozen or more) and close the pot. Use the Steam setting (high pressure) rather than the Manual setting, which will result in higher pressure and tough eggs.

Nearly all of these cookers have a “rest” or “cool down” setting. This is intended for cooking meats and allows them to draw the juices back into the meat before you depressurize and open the pot. For eggs, however, this is silly. A typical recipe suggestion is 5-5-5, meaning 5 minutes cooking, 5 minutes cooldown and 5 minutes in ice water. This is way too long: the eggs will be overcooked. If you play the recipe writer’s game, you should cook using the High Pressure Steam setting, and then let the eggs cool for at most 3 minutes.

To cool the eggs, just lift the whole stainless steel pan out of the pot and remove it to the sink. Then run cold water into the pot, drain and run cold water again. When the eggs feel cool enough to handle peel them under running water. We tried 5+5, found that they were overcooked, and settled on 5+3. A half of each is shown in the right hand bowl below.

It’s interesting to note that the 5+5 (10 minute) egg was just a little more difficult to peel, because the egg was harder and less flexible. Slightly less done eggs are easier to peel!

3 boiled


3 cut openThis photo shows eggs cooked in the vegetable steamer, in a pan and in the Instant Pot for 5+3 and 5+5.

A simpler way to use the Instant Pot, is to forget the cooling period and just cook the eggs for, say, 8 minutes, release the pressure and cool them in running water as above. To see what different times do, see the photo below, which shows cooking times of 7, 8, 9 and 10 minutes.

What about fresh eggs?

fresh wggA pervasive legend, perpetuated by McGee is that really fresh eggs are more likely to stick to their shells than older eggs. We decided to test this out by getting a dozen fresh eggs from a neighbor who raises chickens, and cooking two on a vegetable steamer.  These eggs were probably laid within the past 3-4 days and are about as fresh as we could get.

They cooked perfectly. There was no difference whatever!

Do you really have to use boiling water?

Since everything worked perfectly, we decided to see what it would take to produce an egg that peeled terribly. All we had to do was to start the eggs in cold water and then cook them for 10 minutes from the boil. We chilled them as usual by running cold water into the pan until the egg was cool to the touch. Trying to peel this egg was a disaster. Everything went wrong, just as we predicted.

boil fail

What about the chilled water?


chill failDo we really have to chill the eggs after cooking? Well, that’s easy to try as well. We cooked one egg in the veggie steamer for 10 minute as usual, and left it on the counter for an hour to cool. The result was an egg that peeled pretty well, but was not as perfect as the ones that were chilled right away. Obviously the quick chilling causes the white to draw away from the shell a bit, making peeling easier.

You don’t have to chill the eggs for 5-6 minutes. Just get them to room temperature so you can peel them. This takes a minute or less.

Conclusions

  1. Always start your eggs in boiling water.
  2. Always chill the eggs in cold tap water or ice water after cooking. You only need about a minute of chilling.
  3. Always peel the eggs under cold, running water.
  4. Slightly less done eggs peel more easily.
  5. Farm fresh eggs are no more difficult to peel than older eggs.
  6. Don’t bother with pinholes in the eggs. They don’t do anything.
Baked sea scallops in less than 30 minutes

Baked sea scallops in less than 30 minutes

The delicate flavor of scallops is a marvelous treat whenever they are in season. Sea scallops are the bigger scallops; the little ones are called bay scallops and are best used in dishes like Coquille St Jacques.

This recipe is so easy, you should start the rice you serve it with first, in a pan, an Instant Pot or a rice cooker. Then preheat the oven. We got our idea from one by Christine Laliberte.

  • About 1 lb sea scallops (around 16)
  • 5 Tb melted butter
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, chopped in short lengths, green part included
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 Tb olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Lemon wedges or sliced for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. Place the scallops, melted butter and chopped scallions in a bowl
  3. Add the garlic, using a garlic press or just mince it.
  4. Add salt and pepper.
  5. In another bowl, add the breadcrumbs and mix in the olive oil.
  6. Place scallop mixture in a casserole and cover with the breadcrumbs.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven for 11 minutes or more, until brown.
  8. Sprinkle parsley over the browned breadcrumbs and serve with rice.
Open faced sandwiches with fresh tomatoes

Open faced sandwiches with fresh tomatoes

Now is the time of year to make our favorite fresh tomato sandwich: open faced with tomatoes, bacon and cheese. But you don’t have to wait for the big main crop tomatoes to ripen (our first one will come in tomorrow). Instead, you will find that smaller tomatoes have a richer flavor.

Our smaller tomatoes this year include Fourth of July, which always comes in first (July 17 this year), Garden Gem (from Prof Harry Klee’s breeding lab in Florida), Indigo Rose, Mountain Magic, Garden Treasure and one early plum variety: Gladiator.

tomatoes

The main trick to making these sandwiches is to put the bacon over the tomatoes, but under the cheese, so it doesn’t burn when put under the broiler.

  • 6 slices bacon
  • 4 sliced bread
  • Butter
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Sliced cheddar ( we use Cabot)
  1. Fry the bacon slices until rather crisp
  2. Toast the bread and butter it.
  3. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on each piece of toast
  4. Put 3 half slices of bacon over the tomatoes.
  5. Put the cheese slices over the bacon

Broil the sandwiches for 2-4 minutes, until the cheese begins to melt.

Serve at once.

Pancake breakfast sandwiches

Pancake breakfast sandwiches

Why not make a breakfast sandwich using pancakes instead of a roll? Then it is all hot and delicious, right off the grill. All you need is bacon, eggs, sausage, cheese, butter and buttermilk pancake batter.

We never actually have used a pancake mix, because this old family recipe is so quick:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • Buttermilk (a bit more than 2 cups)

mix batter

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, break in the 2 eggs and add the buttermilk to make a thickish batter.

  • 2 Tb softened butter
  • 1 Tb maple syrup
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 2 sausage patties
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 slices cheese
  • Butter as needed
  1. Mix the maple syrup with the butter, adding more syrup if needed to get a buttery/mapley tasting spread.
  2. Place the strips of bacon and the sausage patties on a 350° F griddle, and allow to cook slowly.

bacon sausage butter

  1. When the bacon and sausages are cooked, put them aside and keep warm.
  2. Melt 1-2 Tb butter on the griddle and drop 4 ¼ cup measures of patter onto the griddle.
  1. When one side of the pancakes are almost done (judging by bubbles forming on top) break the eggs onto the griddle and allow them to cook slowly.
  2. Flip the pancakes and let them cook.
  1. Place a sausage patty and cheese slice on two of the pancakes.
  2. When the eggs appear nearly done, flip them for 10 seconds to cook the tops, and then place them face up on top of the cheese.

butter pancakes

  1. Add two half-slices of bacon over each egg.
  2. Butter the bottom side of the remaining two pancakes with the maple butter, and top the sandwich with the butter side inside.

one sandwich

Serve right away. You can eat them with or without syrup, and with a knife and fork or in hand like a sandwich. Delicious and satisfying, and while rich, it is way less food than a classic “big breakfast.” So there!

The trick to doing the eggs right, is to cook them until they are fairly opaque and then flip them only briefly, so that the yolks stay runny.

Stay hungry!

Lime Posset: a cool refreshing dessert

Lime Posset: a cool refreshing dessert

This easy recipe makes a cool lime custard in ten minutes work plus 4 hours chilling time, and is just made from limes, sugar and cream. No eggs, no flour. So why does it thicken? It’s the lime juice that coagulates the milk proteins. This recipe was suggested by one in Bon Appetit. Possets go way back to the 16th century and are mentioned in Shakespeare as well as by other writers of the time. In British Food History, Neil Cooks Grigson writes that most mentions of possets in the 18th and 19th century were to a warm drink made with curdled milk, sugar and alcohol, but there is one 1769 article that pretty much describes what 20th and 21st century cooks are making. You can make possets using any acidic fruit juice: orange and lemon possets are also common. In each case, the acid of the fruit coagulates the cream, but because of its high fat content, it makes a smooth custardy texture.

  • 2 limes, peeled into strips
  • Juice of the same 2 limes
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 4 ramekins
  • 1 peach
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 4 mint leaves
  1. Put the cream, sugar and salt in saucepan and add the strips of lime peel. Boil gently for 5 minutes to reduce and thicken the cream.
  1. Strain the cream and return it to the saucepan. Add the lime juice and stir.
  2. Allow the cream to cool a bit and begin to thicken and pour into four ramekins.
  3. Chill for 4 or more hours.
  1. Peel the peach by submerging it in boiling water for a minute and cooling it in cold water. Pull off the peel, using a vegetable peeler if it is stubborn.
  2. Cut the peach into slices, place into a bowl and sugar them with about 1 Tb sugar.
  3. When ready to serve, add the sugar to the ½ cup of cream and whip it. Place a peach slice on each ramekin, add a dollop of cream, and decorate with a mint leaf.