Archive for the 'Recipe' Category

Cháo Cá – Vietnamese Fish Porridge

Chao Ca - Vietnamese Fish Porridge

I called dibs on the fish carcass following our baked catfish feast at Phong Dinh. While little was left of the fish’s flesh, I saw great potential in the remaining bones. Namely, an opportunity to transform what would have been waste into one of the most comforting dishes ever: cháo cá (Vietnamese fish porridge).

To start, I made a light stock using the bones along with fresh ginger, scallions, and cilantro. According to Mom, the aromatics are essential for balancing the fish’s intrinsically “fishy” flavor and aroma. Next, I added rice to the broth and let it simmer for the better part of an hour. Once the rice was fully bloomed, thickening the porridge just so, sautéed fish and mushrooms were added in. Chopped cilantro and scallions topped each bowl to finish.

Even though cháo cá  is essentially made with kitchen scraps, the flavor coaxed from the humble ingredients is rounded and rich. It’s hard not to feel utterly satisfied after finishing a bowl of this soulful porridge.

  • 1 large fish carcass
  • Water
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • Small knob ginger (1.5 inches long), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts separated
  • Salt
  • Fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces white button mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
  • Chili powder (optional)

Make broth

Chao Ca - Vietnamese Fish Porridge

In a large stock pot, combine 4 quarts of water, fish carcass, cilantro (stems only), ginger, and half of the scallions (white part only, halved lengthwise). Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes on low heat.

Remove broth from heat and discard fish carcass and aromatics. Season with 1 tablespoon salt and 3 tablespoons fish sauce.

Make porridge

Chao Ca - Vietnamese Fish Porridge

Over medium-low heat, return the broth to the stove and add in rice. Simmer until desired thickness has been achieved, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.

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Blueberry Sour Cream Cardamom Muffins

Blueberry Sour Cream Cardamom Muffins

One of my proudest accomplishments while on maternity leave was managing to whip up moderately complicated recipes when June was napping. While I usually find cooking under pressure a little stressful, I loved how these kitchen challenges kept me on my toes and put my organizational skills to the test (Hello, mise-en-place!). Or maybe I was too sleep deprived to think clearly…

One of the most delectable baking-while-the-baby’s-napping creations were these Blueberry Sour Cream Cardamom Muffins. The original recipe by Eugenia Bone for Food & Wine magazine calls for cinnamon in the streusel topping and lemon zest in the batter; however, I swapped both out in favor of the warm, sweet scent of cardamom. The spice pairs beautifully with blueberries and makes streusel sing.

I didn’t manage to capture my usual step-by-step photos (that would’ve been too ambitious an endeavor), but this muffin doesn’t require much hand-holding. “Dry” ingredients are combined with “wet” ones (some lumps are a good thing), streusel is prepared and sprinkled on top, and everything is baked until done. Eat ’em warm from the oven, or if you’re in a similar boat, while the baby’s down for a nap.

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Chocolate Sheet Cake with Boiled Chocolate Icing

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Icing

Is it too soon to decide June’s first birthday cake? Even though we’re still six-plus months away, I can’t resist dreaming up confections that our little sweetie will have a ball “smashing” on her big day.

This Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting has been a Chaplin family favorite since The Astronomer’s father’s post-doc days. The recipe originated from a colleague of his named Katy, a gal who clearly had a penchant for unabashedly sweet sweets.

While The Astronomer preferred frosting-less bundt cakes for his birthdays growing up, his brother Daniel and sister Rosalind adored this simple sheet cake. And though I’m 33 years late to the “Katy’s Chocolate Cake” party, I love it all the same.

The batter of the matter, seriously moist and cinnamon-kissed, is finished with a classic, Southern-style boiled chocolate icing. Eaten together, it’s an unstoppable avalanche of buttery, chocolatey, sugary, sprinkle-y goodness!

If June’s palate is anything like her mother’s, this cake will get mauled to pieces in 60 seconds flat. I can’t wait.

For cake

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For icing

  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 3 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare cake

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Icing

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, sift together sugar and flour and set aside.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Icing

In a saucepan, combine butter, oil, cocoa powder, and water. Bring to a boil and pour over sugar and flour mixture. Add in buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, cinnamon, and vanilla.

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Sesame Noodles with Made-From-Scratch Chili Oil

Sesame Noodles with Chili Oil and Scallions

I procured some Sichuan peppercorns following our Chengdu travels two Septembers ago, but left them untouched in the cupboard until stumbling upon this recipe for Sesame Noodles with Chili Oil and Scallions in the June 2013 issue of Bon Appétit.

What made these noodles something to talk about was the chili oil made from scratch with fresh scallions, crushed red pepper flakes, and tongue-quivering peppercorns. Mixed with tahini, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, the chili oil packed enough heat to make us sweat and imparted the kind of nuanced flavor that kept our chopsticks coming back for more.

I prepared these noodles to accompany a Chinese Wood Ear Mushroom Salad, because man cannot survive on fungus alone. Sharing similar flavor profiles, the two dishes complemented each other and made for a perfectly satisfying vegetarian lunch. Note to self: add broccoli, eggplant, and tofu to the noodles next time around for a well-balanced, one-dish meal.

For the chili oil

  • 4 scallions, whites and greens separated, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan pepper, coarsely ground

For the noodles

  • 24 ounces Chinese wheat noodles (or spaghetti)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Sesame Noodles with Chili Oil and Scallions

Cook scallion whites, vegetable oil, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and pepper in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until oil is sizzling and scallions are golden brown, 12–15 minutes.

Sesame Noodles with Chili Oil and Scallions

Let chili oil cool in the saucepan or in a bowl.

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