Cabbage Slaw

A while back, Andrew and I were planning dinner. There was some chicken breasts in the freezer. Protein, check. But what to make with it? Wanting to utilize ingredients I already had, I took stock of the fridge and saw that I had half a head of cabbage, capers, thyme, shallots, and some preserved lemons, not to mention a bunch of vinegars in the pantry. So I thought, why not make some kind of cabbage slaw with a lemon-caper vinaigrette and place it on top of some mixed greens? It would be a nice, simple salad to pair with the poultry.

Andrew was skeptical of this idea. He loves cabbage, but the idea of it being practically the only thing in the salad wasn’t appealing to him. I understood. Raw cabbage can be tough and a little bitter. To counteract that, I finely shredded the cabbage using a mandoline. I wanted the cabbage to be really fine so that the cabbage would absorb the dressing better, softening its toughness and reducing its bitterness, yet still retain a pleasant crunch.

I expected the slaw to be good, but I wasn’t expecting Andrew’s reaction. He loved it. He said it was so good I should bottle the dressing and sell it. While I’ll leave the salad dressing business to Paul Newman, it was one of the best compliments on my cooking Andrew has given me. Perhaps his low expectations contributed to the inflated praise, but I’ll take it! As you can see, the slaw doesn’t look like much, but it packs a surprising amount of flavor. The preserved lemon is what really makes this recipe pop. It brightens the dish with splashes of lovely Meyer lemon without overpowering everything else.

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I’ve made this slaw using a mix of green and purple cabbage as well. It tastes the same, but turns everything pink. It just depends on what aesthetic you’re going for. Add lentils (I like the little black kind with this) to make a more substantial lunch salad during the week. Because cabbage is so hearty, this keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days without turning soggy. I like to make large batches to have ready-made salads for dinner and/or lunch for a few days. Recipe is below!

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CABBAGE SLAW

This recipe is easily scalable for larger batches. The dressing is forgiving so the measurements below are really just a guide. I mostly make this to taste myself. I also realize that preserved lemons are not exactly a pantry staple, so if you don’t have any I’d use lemon zest and a bit of salt as a substitute. Maybe a little lemon juice as well, but then I’d reduce the amount of vinegar or it will become too acidic. I haven’t tried this substitution myself, but I’m sure it would work well enough. You won’t get those bites of salty Meyer lemony goodness, but you’d still get a nice lemon flavor which really livens the dressing.

INGREDIENTS (makes about 2-3 servings)

  • Quarter head of cabbage
  • Mixed greens
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced and smashed or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 of preserved lemon, flesh removed, rind rinsed and minced.
  • Fresh thyme to taste (if you have on hand. Dried works too, just use less)
  • Pepper to taste

METHOD

  • Set the cabbage and mixed greens aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together until emulsified. Add more oil, vinegar, pepper, and/or thyme to taste. Let sit for an hour or so (if you have time) to let the flavors meld. Taste again and adjust any ingredients as needed.
  • Meanwhile, finely shred the cabbage. I prefer to use a mandoline, but a food processor will work, too. You could, of course, slice it by hand, but I can never get it as thin as I want when I use a mandolin.*
  • Mix dressing with cabbage. You can let it sit for 10-15 minutes to let it marinate or use right away.
  • Lightly dress mixed greens with olive oil and champagne vinegar. Top with dressed cabbage and serve.

*If you like thin veggies for anything, you should totally get a mandoline. It’s a cooking game-changer. I got a PL8 Professional Mandoline and I love it. There are multiple cut settings, it’s easy to clean, and there’s many safety precautions so sliced fingers can easily be avoided.🙂

The Kim’s House of Prime Rib

My mom makes a great prime rib. She roasts potatoes and bell peppers in the roasting pan along with the meat so they cook in all the drippings. It’s so good. In her words, “It’s my favorite entertaining meal. So easy, yummy, and you get to enjoy your guests without concentrating on the food.” I’ve never made her prime rib recipe before, but last weekend I had my chance.

On Saturday, Andrew and I hosted our friends Cory and Margaret, and Shane and Savannah for dinner. I have no photo of them. Despite telling them I was going to take their picture specifically for this blog post, I had too much fun merrymaking that I completely forgot. So it goes. Anyway, I wanted to make a good ole’ meat and potatoes meal, and what better way to do that than with prime rib? So I emailed my mom for the recipe (full recipe at the end of this post).

Although three ribs worth serves six (2 people per rib), I wanted to make sure I had leftovers so I opted for four ribs. Little did I know how much meat that was. I came home with almost 10 pounds of beef, including the bones (because of course I’m going to make stock with it). My mom only gave me a general cooking time: 1 1/2 hours for three ribs, 2 hours for four. Because I had so much meat, I wanted to make sure I cooked it long enough so I Googled prime rib cooking times and came across this great post on prime rib by Simply Recipes.

It was quite thorough about cooking times:

  • 12-14 minutes per pound for rare (115°F)
  • 15-17 minutes per pound for medium rare (120°-130°F)

The post goes into more detail about other factors that affect cooking times, so if you are planning on making this at any point, I highly recommend reading it. I found it really helpful and adapted my mom’s recipe to include some of their tips. (And by the way, my mom was almost spot on about the 2 hour cooking time. Without the bones, the roast came to 7 1/2 pounds. Do the math and you are at just about 2 hours depending on how rare you want it. Goes to show you should always listen to your mother!)

When I seasoned the meat and added the chopped the veggies, my roasting pan was quite full:

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I popped this baby in the oven and it didn’t take long for the apartment to start to smell amazing. While the beef was roasting, I prepped a salad of radicchio, butter lettuce, shaved fennel, and a champagne vinaigrette. It’s a simplified version of Bon Appetit’s Crunchy Winter-Vegetable Salad, and looks very homey in my grandmother’s wooden salad bowl set.

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The salad didn’t take long to prepare and with the rest of the meal in the oven, not needing any attention, I had over an hour to spare before our guests arrived. I actually had time to test-drive the featured cocktail of the evening and actually finish it! Cory and Margaret are big whiskey fans, so I decided to make whiskey sours using a recipe from RecipesPlus. I had a bunch of Meyer lemons thanks to a colleague who literally brought in buckets of them to work, and with the orange syrup leftover from my candied orange peels, I had the ingredients to make the best whiskey sour I’ve ever tasted. Now I need to candy more orange peels just so I can get the syrup so I can keep making this cocktail. It really was that special ingredient that lifted it from being a good cocktail to Captain Awesome.

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The prime rib was done just about when my friends arrived, which was perfect because we were able to have a cocktail while the meat rested. It turned out beautiful. It was juicy and tender and pink and silky from all the marbled fat that makes this cut of meat “prime.” I was quite impressed with myself. I will be the first to tell you everything that I did wrong with a dish. That’s kind of what this blog is all about, but I really can’t cut myself down this time. I did a fantastic job and I don’t mind tooting my own horn at all. We joked about never needing to go to The House of Prime Rib when you can just come to the Kim’s.

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Look at that perfect pink!

But I’m not done yet. Because there is still dessert. Andrew and I were in Napa the weekend before last and had a great pots de creme at Zuzu, one of our favorite restaurants up there. As I was eating it, I thought, “I could make this.” So I did. I found recipes for pots de creme that call for baking the custard like creme brulee. That’s kind of pain to do, so I opted for a simpler Pots de Creme recipe from the Food Network where you slowly thicken the milk, cream, egg yolk, and sugar into a custard and blend it with chocolate. From there you pour it into whatever dishes you want to serve it in and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. Because it needs a few hours to set, make this in the morning you are going to serve. Then all you need to do when it’s dessert time is top with whipped cream, grate some chocolate over it for pizzaz, and you have one hell of a dessert.

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This was the most stress-free dinner party I have thrown yet. I wasn’t scrambling to set the table, or running around crazy doing the final steps for multiple dishes. Everything was ready, on time, with space to enjoy a cocktail and most importantly my guests. Prime rib is now my favorite entertaining meal. So easy, yummy, and you get to enjoy your guests without concentrating on the food. Words (and food) never rang truer.

RECIPES

Prime Rib

(serves 6)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 ribs of prime rib (bones removed). If you’re my mom you give the bones to the dog. If you’re me you freeze them for stock.
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Rock salt (or any course salt you have on hand)
  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 large yellow onion

METHOD

  • Take the meat out of the fridge 3 hours before roasting to get it to room temperature. Place in roasting pan and cover the entire roast with rock salt.
  • When it’s time to roast, preheat the oven to 500°F.
  • Meanwhile, dice the potatoes, bell peppers, and onion. Mix together and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Pat the roast dry with a paper towel. Generously season all over with with Herbes de Provence.
  • Add the potatoes, bell peppers, and onion around the prime rib.
  • Roast for 15 minutes at 500°F, then turn down to 325°F and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes (12-14 minutes per pound for rare and 15-17 minutes per pound for medium rare).
  • Take out prime rib and let it rest for about 20 minutes.
  • Mix the potatoes and taste for doneness. If the potatoes are not fully cooked, leave the oven on and continue to cook while the meat is resting. If they are cooked, turn the oven off and keep the potatoes in the oven to keep warm.
  • Slice the prime rib and place on the serving platter. Arrange potatoes around the meat and serve!

Tangerine Sorbet with Candied Peels–Valentines Day 2016 (part 2)

When I was planning my Valentine’s Day menu, dessert was not on my radar. I knew the dumplings were going to take up most of my time and I didn’t want to stress myself out by planning elaborate dessert. I was just going to do something simple like fresh berries with a little Grand Marnier (one of my parents’ go-to desserts). But a recipe for tangerine sorbet by David Lebovitz came into my inbox the Friday before Valentine’s Day and I thought, “This looks easy enough, tangerines are in season, it’ll go nicely with my menu, and I’m working from home today. I have time to do this.” So I took a mid-morning break from work and walked to my local produce market to pick up some minneola tangelos (though any tangerine or mandarin orange varietal would have worked, too).

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This recipe does require planning ahead (which for once I successfully did!). You have to juice the fruit, add sugar, some zest, and a little Grand Marnier, and let it chill overnight. Since I was working from home and didn’t have to take my 45 minute commute home, I was able to start on this right at 5 pm, perfect for stress-free prep, i.e. I am not juicing fruit at 9:30 at night. I busted out the juicer and juiced about 8 tangelos, enough to get 4 cups. The juicer is a pain to clean, so if you have a large citrus squeezer or a hand juicer, I recommend going that route. I have neither, so the juicer it was. I ended up with a little more than 4 cups of juice so I used the extra to make screwdrivers for happy hour. Another plus for starting this project at 5 pm.

The next day I took the juice from the fridge and put it in the freezer. Taking instructions from Lebovitz on how to make ice cream without a machine, I took the juice out of the freezer every half hour, for a couple of hours, and blended it with my stick blender (you can also mix with a hand mixer or with a spatula by hand). This allows for a smooth, consistent texture as it slowly freezes. Otherwise you’ll just have a big bowl of popsicle. While it would still be delicious, it would prove a bit difficult to eat.

Lebovitz also candied the peels of the fruit to serve alongside the sorbet. I thought that was a great way to minimize food waste, and decided to do the same. So I peeled the tangelos before juicing to candy later. However, Lebovitz’s recipe for candied orange peels is not available online, so I had to do some research for a recipe. To candy a citrus peel, you basically boil it in sugar water. But I found many methods to do this, with a variety of sugar to water ratios, boiling times, etc. Considering my history of candying fruit and trouble with boiling liquids with a high sugar content, I wanted to be careful about what recipe I chose. I didn’t want to make a sauce-pan full of hard candy.

What most recipes agreed on was cutting the peels of whatever citrus fruit you’re using (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, or a mix) into 1/4 inch strips.

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But that is where the recipes diverge. Some recipes blanch the peels a number of times to remove the bitterness, like Jacques Pepin does in his recipe (this video of his is also helpful). Others boil the strips once for 10-15 minutes, like Martha Stewart. I decided to go the multiple blanch route because that’s what I saw people do more often. After blanching, you boil the peels in sugar water for about 8-10 minutes, until they are translucent. Martha Stewart uses a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar. But Jacques Pepin uses a 2:1 ratio. I randomly decided that Jacques has more authority in this matter and went with the 2:1 ratio. I was also afraid of the 1:1 sugar to water ratio, reasons of which I stated previously.

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peels after their sugar-water boil

After the peels have been boiled, you toss them in sugar to coat. Martha’s recipe recommends letting them dry out for about an hour before coating. Jacques doesn’t. I went with Jacques’ method again, but found that the sugar clumped together more than I would have liked. Even after being left to dry for an hour, they were still pretty wet. Martha may have been on to something with her drying instructions.

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Although the peels turned out very tasty, I was not 100% satisfied with how these came out, and I am going to keep playing around with the recipe. I think a lot of the trouble has to do with how much peel you have and knowing how to scale the sugar to water ratio accordingly. Because you’re not always going to have 8 oranges worth of peel. Clearly, I do not have my magic method for candied orange peels yet, but my adapted recipe for this particular batch of peels is below.

I leave you with the final outcome of the sorbet, garnished and everything. Another good way to server it would be to chop the candied peel and sprinkle it on top so that you can have little bits of candied peel in each bite.

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Recipes

Candied Orange Peels (adapted from Jacques Pepin)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups orange peels (or any mix of citrus peels), cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar (plus 1/3 cup for coating)

METHOD

  1. Peel the zest of oranges, leaving off as much of the white pith as possible. Julienne the peels into 1/4 inch strips.
  2. In a saucepan, cover the strips in water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 seconds. Drain peels in a strainer and rinse with cold water. Repeat one more time.
  3. Return the peels to the saucepan with 1 cup sugar and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, until the mixture starts to thicken and the peels turn translucent, about 8-10 minutes, though it took a little longer for me, probably becuase I simmered rather than boiled. I was scared of making hard candy. (This is the step where I need to make the most adjustments, perhaps in sugar to water ratio or cooking temperature.)
  4. Strain the peels, saving the syrup for another use (like cocktails or to sweeten tea).
  5. Spread 1/3 cup of sugar on a tray or medium sized bowl. Add the peels and toss, separating the pieces so that each strip is coated with sugar. Transfer the strips to a cooling rack and let stand for at least an hour, until dry. (Again, my peels didn’t really dry, so I will try letting them dry a bit before tossing in sugar.)
  6. Store in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. You can refrigerate or let it stand at room temperature.

Pork Soup Dumplings–Valentine’s Day 2016 (part 1)

Valentine’s Day is just another day for the Kims. We don’t buy each other gifts or go out to a nice restaurant, but it does provide a reason to get flowers for our table and make an elaborate meal at home, not that you ever need a reason to do either. This year’s V-day menu was pork soup dumplings (all from scratch), green beans, and homemade tangerine sorbet with candied tangerine peels, with French 75 cocktails to enjoy throughout.

I spotted this recipe for pork soup dumplings in an issue of Bon Appetit about a year ago and saved it as a “someday” cooking project. Then sometime in the new year it popped up again in BA’s daily email, and with my mild success at making pork buns, I thought I would try it for Valentine’s Day. It was also an excuse to buy Asian soup spoons, which I was thrilled about!

There are three components to soup dumplings: soup, filling, and dough. The soup is made with pork skin, pork bones, and a pig’s foot (as well as some ginger, scallions, and Shaoxing wine). The skin contains so much collagen that when you chill the finished stock, it turns into a Jell-o like consistency, or meat Jell-o, if you will. Then you cut the jelled soup into small cubes and add it to the pork filling. As you steam the filled dumplings, the jelled soup melts and that’s how you get the soup inside the dumpling. The soup itself is simple enough to make–it’s like any other stock, but it does require a trip to an Asian market as conventional butchers don’t necessarily have pig’s feet and straight up pork skin you can buy. It’ll also be the best place to get black vinegar and Shaoxing wine, which you’ll need for the filling and dipping sauce. I also recommend making the soup the day before.

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chilled and cubed jelled soup ready to go into the filling

The filling is really easy. You just mix ground pork with some scallions, garlic, ginger, and other Asian sauces like Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and sesame seed oil. And if you already cook a lot of Asian food, you will have most of these ingredients in your pantry. If not, as I mentioned above, a trip to the Asian market will get you those ingredients very inexpensively. Once all those ingredients are mixed, you add the cubed jelled soup to it.

Now for the dough. Compared to pork bun dough, this was a breeze. It’s literally just flour and water. You let it rest for an hour (I prepared the filling while it was resting), and then divide it into pieces to be rolled into dumpling skins. I knew shaping the dumplings would be difficult (18 pleats!), but I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to roll out the skins themselves. The dough was very sticky, so even when I got the dough into a nice round shape, it would stick to my countertop when I pulled it up, stretching it out and ruining it. I then added more flour to the dough to prevent it from sticking, but then it would get tough.

On top of that, I could not get a handle on how to get the appropriate thickness. The middle of the skins should be thicker (so they don’t break when steamed), and the edges should be thinner so that when you make all those pleats, the top of the dumpling won’t be tough and chewy. My dumplings were the exact opposite. The middle was way too thin, the edges way too thick. In the photo below, you can see my scrapped skins in the top right corner. And those skins on the top left are not exactly circles.

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Luckily, I had a back-up plan. I told a colleague of mine (who happens to be Chinese) that I was making soup dumplings. She commended me for the attempt, but also advised me to buy pre-made skins just in case the dough failed. So while at the Asian market picking up pig’s feet and Shaoxing wine, I grabbed a package of dumpling skins as well. Or what I thought were dumpling skins (there were so many kinds!). I was glad I took my colleague’s advise because the dough failed me, or more accurately, I failed the dough. But when I tried to pleat the store-bought skins, they didn’t stick! I was surprised and frustrated by this, and ended up using my homemade dough anyway because at least I could get it to close. At that point I lost all patience with trying to roll and shape the dumplings correctly, so I just filled and sealed the dumplings anyway I could just to get them made. I figured however misshapen, they would still taste good. It wasn’t until after I made all the dumplings that Andrew stepped in and told me that you have to wet the edges of store-bought skins with water to get them to seal (an embarrassing display of my ignorance, and frankly, my whiteness).

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my ugly dumplings

With the dumplings finally made, I set about steaming them. That was when I truly discovered why you don’t want the bottom of your skins to be too thin, because all the dumplings broke and lost all their soup. So in the end I just made regular dumplings. They were pretty thick and chewy on top because of how I carelessly shaped them, but otherwise they were pretty good, especially with the dipping sauce made of black vinegar, soy sauce, scallions, and ginger. Served with Chinese style green beans and a strong French 75 cocktail, it turned into a rather nice meal.

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I would definitely make this recipe again, but using store-bought skins (making sure to wet the edges with water, of course). It’s just not worth the trouble making the skins by hand. And despite how much I love making meals entirely from scratch, I’m learning that a good home cook also knows when to cut corners and still keep the integrity of the home-cooked meal intact.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post to get the inside scoop on the tangerine sorbet I made for dessert (pun most definitely intended).

Recipes

 

Austin Eats

About two weeks ago Andrew and I went to Austin, Texas. The reason was to visit friends, the catalyst for going was to escape the craziness of Super Bowl 50, which was hosted in San Francisco this year. I went with the intention of eating lots of barbecue. I did not. Andrew and I quickly learned that you do little walking in the greater Austin area, and after one giant meal of basically all meat followed by hours of sitting in the car, we realized our dreams of days of barbecue were unrealistic. We were craving vegetables by the evening of day one of our trip.

Despite my inability to eat as much smoked and charred meat as I intended to, we still had incredible barbecue and great food. So if you’re ever in Austin and the surrounding area (and y’all who are going to SXSW), here’s a list of the stand-out places we went to, listed in order of when we visited, not in order of preference. It’s a bit of a long list so I’ll do my best to keep this short and sweet.

Franklin Barbecue Yes, the first thing Andrew and I did in Austin was wait three hours for barbecue. I have a hard time waiting in line three hours for any restaurant, but this place is famous and we were on vacation so we said, let’s do it. It was definitely delicious (look at those gorgeous ribs) but honestly, I wouldn’t wait in that line again for it. You can get great barbecue elsewhere without that kind of a wait. But I am fully aware that I am not from a state (or city) in which barbecue is a culinary tradition, so I can’t say I’m a connoisseur of barbecue. As long as it’s tender and the rib meat falls off the bone, I’m good to go. However, if you’re a foodie and don’t mind that kind of a wait, you won’t be disappointed with Franklin’s.

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LaunderetteThis is a cute small plates restaurant with good cocktails. I don’t know if their menu is seasonal, but I highly recommend the zucchini and the toasts.

Barley SwineThis place was incredible, and probably was my favorite restaurant we went to. It can be difficult to get in without a reservation, but our friend had the hook-up and we were able to get a reservation for a late dinner. It’s another small plates restaurant that uses local, seasonal ingredients. They also have a wall of pickled things in jars which I couldn’t help but love.

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We ordered at least half of the menu. Everything was amazing. You can’t go wrong.

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Spanish mackerel

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Best octopus I’ve had to date.

TacodeliA great place for breakfast tacos, especially if you’re hungover.😉

White HorseWe made it to a honky tonk! This place is a divey-lookin’ bar that gives dancing lessons earlier in the evening for when the live band comes one later. The crowd was a surprising mix of ages and styles. We even saw this poor guy lose his date to a tall cowboy, white Stetson and all, who literally swept this woman off her feet. That’s what happens when you can’t dance, fellas.

East Side KingThis is an Asian-fusion food truck that I guess has a permanent location at The Liberty, a bar in east Austin. It was something like 1 am by the time Andrew and I with our friends rolled into this place, and again, we ordered half the menu. The fried chicken sammy was excellent, especially after a number of drinks, and they had deep fried cucumber kimchi. Absolutely brilliant. Now I’m thinking of making my own cucumber kimchi just so I can fry it. Come to think of it, I wonder why it’s never crossed my mind to fry my own homemade pickles. I’m going to have to try that one day and blog about it.

C&J Barbeque. Our friends Mandy and Larry took us here the day we all went to College Station. This is one of their favorite BBQ joints and for good reason. Everything they had was excellent (ribs fallin’ off the bone and everything), plus they had the best barbecue sauce. It reminded me of the BBQ sauce my late grandfather would make. Even though they don’t bottle and sell their sauce, I got half a quart of it, put it in a big mason jar and took it home with me. I’m going to have to see if my mom has the recipe somewhere because that I have to make and blog about. This stuff needs to be shared. Unfortunately, there isn’t a location in Austin, but it’s a must-go-to place if you’re in College Station.

Lucy’s Fried Chicken. Last, but not least. This was the last place we ate on our way to the airport coming home. Our friend Bobby described it as a hidden gem, and he was right. It’s a cute place on Travis Lake, with tons of outdoor seating, a small stage where I assume they have live music, and a gorgeous view. It was sunny and warm when we went and it reminded me of The Marshall Store, one of our favorite places to go for oysters. Lucy’s has oysters, too, but they’re from the Gulf of Mexico and not as good as the ones we get on the Pacific Coast. I recommend sticking with the fried chicken.

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Our lunchtime view at Lucy’s.

Overall, it was a successful trip full of good food and great friends. We only scratched the surface of all that Austin has to offer and we will definitely make our way back there someday.  I’ll leave you with a few pictures from Hamilton Pool just because it’s so pretty.

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Recipe Discoveries

Last week was not great. It was busy at work. I was distracted and annoyed. Unproductive. This weekend I was able to pull myself together a little bit. I caught up on a few (of the many) things I’ve been putting off, got some rest, finished a book, and spent some time in the kitchen trying new recipes with a good measure of success. So when you’re feeling a bit low and uninspired, these recipes can help pick you back up.

Mango Margaritas

I don’t recommend making these every time you’re feeling low, but they certainly can help celebrate the start of the weekend, particularly when you’ve had a hard week, and especially when you share them with good friends. As I mentioned in the Momofuku Pork Buns (part 2) post, margaritas are a great way to use up the leftovers of that mango puree from mango pudding. I loosely followed my girl, Ree Drummond’s recipe, using mango puree to taste in place of the jarred mangos (and adding very little, if any additional sugar). I love the lime zest and sugar rim–it announces a party in looks and taste. And party we did.

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Spicy Tomato Soup

Barbara Lynch’s Spicy Tomato Soup from Food 52 is a simple soup to make on a lazy weekend or a busy weeknight. The ingredients are minimal and the method is easy. It does require blending and straining, which is a bit of a hassle, but definitely worth it to get a good homemade tomato soup and skip the preservatives and sodium of the store-bought kind.

Warm Lentil and Potato Salad

Smitten Kitchen recently posted this recipe. I’ve been waiting for a new lentil recipe to catch my eye so that I can use up the dregs of all the lentils in my pantry. The dressing is a vague cross between the dressing in your traditional potato salad and a German potato salad, containing dijon mustard, shallots, capers, and cornichons. I knew I would love this recipe based on those ingredients alone. It’s another simple dish to throw together, although you have to use a number of pots, and will most likely have to go to the store to pick up those capers and cornichons and a few other things. However, you will come away with a great (healthy) work lunch for a few days to help get you through another busy week.

Potato Chip Cookies

Yes, these are a thing and they are just as good as you want them to be. This is another Food 52 discovery (seriously, if don’t subscribe to them already, do so now). I’m not much of a cookie baker. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t find cookies to be all that exciting–to eat or make–but the whole game changes when you add crushed potato chips. This recipe does not disappoint, and I have 15 coworkers who can back me up on that. And this photo…

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My only regret is that I didn’t come up with this idea myself.

Pizza Party!

When I was growing up, Saturday was pizza night. My mom would order pizza, spread out an old table cloth on the family room floor, and my family of five would eat picnic-style in front of the TV. As kids, it was our weekly treat, and for mom, it was her night off from cooking, so a treat for her as well. Usually we’d watch Jeopardy, or James Bond movies when TNT hosted its annual 007 marathon. It’s a mundane childhood memory, but a fond one all the same.

As an adult, I don’t have a TV, let alone cable. And I don’t have to wait for TNT to watch James Bond movies thanks to Netflix. Instead of ordering in, I can be fancy and make it myself. I also don’t have to wait for Saturday to have it. But there is something comforting about pizza on a Saturday night.

Before I moved in with Andrew, my former roommate Andrea and I would make pizza every so often. Actually, one of the first meals we made together after she first moved in was pizza, which made it very fitting when she and her boyfriend, Scott, gifted us a pizza steel for our wedding. So of course when Andrew and I hosted Andrea and Scott for dinner last Saturday, we had to make them pizza using the pizza steel they got us.

Andrea and Scott

Andrea and Scott

With me being me, I wanted to make the dough and the sauce from scratch. That was actually the easy part. I found a good dough recipe on Smitten Kitchen, which is honestly a little complicated to read through, but the recipe itself is very easy. You mix flour, yeast, a little salt, and water in a bowl with a large spoon and let it sit over night. That’s it. You don’t need a standing mixer with a dough hook. You don’t have to kneed. You don’t need to adhere to a precise proofing schedule. The dough will look like this after first mixing:

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Then it turn into this after sitting for about 20 hours:

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The dough is a bit sticky and you do have to work it a little to get it into a nice, round pizza shape, but flour your hands and the sticky dough is not much of a problem. Smitten Kitchen’s dough recipe also contains an easy and tasty pizza sauce recipe as well.

Of course, you don’t have to make the dough and sauce from scratch to have good homemade pizza. You can buy dough and sauce at the store and still have damn good pizza. I’ve done it. You’ve probably done it. We know it’s delicious. For me, the difficulty in making pizza at home is with transferring the prepared pizza onto the hot pizza steel for baking. Raw pizza dough is notoriously sticky, and it always sticks to whatever I roll it out on, and through my scrambling to try and get it on the steel, I often ruin the pizza entirely or it ends up misshapen. Using cornmeal to coat the bottom does work, but I have to use so much cornmeal that it changes the texture of the bottom of the finished pizza, making it rough and a little grainy. Like sand. Bleh.

What ended up working the best, for texture and for ease, was to prepare the pizza on parchment paper, coating it a little with cornmeal to help keep the dough from sticking while you’re shaping it. Then slide the prepared pizza, parchment and all, onto the hot pizza steel. It slides on without a problem and if it’s not positioned well on the steel, you can take the corners of the parchment and easily adjust the pizza’s position without burning yourself. It’s probably cheating on some level, but it beats ruining the pizza and getting frustrated.

So after some trial and error with our transferring strategy, we came away with four pretty good pizzas. One pizza did perish in the process, requiring me to dip into one of the Trader Joe’s doughs we bought just in case there was a mishap with one of the pieces of homemade dough. At least I planned that well. In the end our plates were a smorgasbord of bread and toppings, with some salad to make ourselves feel like we were being healthy.

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Slices from four pizzas: BBQ chicken w/ cilantro; ricotta with za’atar and ricotta; sausage and mushroom; prosciutto and arugula.

And of course, there was dessert. What kind of Kim dinner party would this be without dessert? I dug into one of my Food 52 cookbooks and found a recipe for Aunt Mariah’s Lemon Sponge Cups. It uses simple ingredients, most of which I already had, and is baked in ramekins, my favorite dessert-delivery method. What intrigued me about the recipe is that it is described as a mix between a souffle and a custard because as the “cups” cook, a spongey cake forms on the top while a lemon custard naturally pools on the bottom. Yes, please!

The trickiest part about this recipe is beating egg whites and folding them into a very liquidy batter. I always have trouble beating egg whites, you know, the two times a year I need to do it. I never really know when they’re stiff enough. How stiff can egg whites really get? I usually end up over beating them so that they start to liquify again, which did indeed happen while I made this recipe. I should YouTube this and get some tips. Or call my mom, who can give cooking advice on almost anything. (Mom, please leave a comment on this post if you have suggestions for me!)

Because the batter was more liquid than batter, I found it difficult to  fold the egg whites into it really well. It just didn’t meld well. There were  definitely some lumps of egg whites. But I didn’t want to over fold and lose the airiness that would give the cups their light and fluffy texture. So I stopped before I could do real damage.

In the end I would give them a score of 7 out of 10. The cake part of the dessert was excellent. It was spongey, had a lovely lemon flavor without being overpowering or too sweet. Look at my beautiful tops:

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But I lost points on the custard. While it tasted good, the texture was off. It was not very smooth, was a bit runny, and did not hold it’s shape when I turned out the ramekins onto a plate. It just spilled all over the plate in a yellow mess. I’m pretty sure this had to do with my egg white problem. This was the only serving that came out decent:

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I will definitely make this again, but next time, I will serve this directly in the ramekins rather than try to be fancy and turn them out. It’ll hide my custard flaws.