Archive for the 'Sauce + Condiment' Category

Ruth Reichl’s Dangerously Delicious Apricot Jam

Ruth Reichl's Dangerously Delicious Apricot Jam

Making preserves has always held a fascination for me, but so far I’ve shied away because it seemed like such a to-do. To avoid the fussiness of traditional jam making, Ruth Reichl suggests making small, “dangerously delicious” batches that can be consumed within the span of a few weeks, thus eliminating all need for special materials and specific methods. Win, win. I’m in.

After procuring two pounds of apricots and setting aside an evening without commitments, I set out to make my first lazy man’s jam. First, I pulled apart the fruit using my bare hands, leaving the skins on and removing the pits, then I made a simple syrup and macerated half the fruit in it. More fruit, a whole vanilla bean, and a squeeze of lemon juice later, I had a dangerously delicious apricot jam on my hands. I couldn’t believe how awesomely simple it all was.

The Astronomer and I have been slathering this stuff on everything from traditional toast to gio chao quay (Chinese fried crullers). The crullers’ salty notes play well with the jam’s intrinsic sweetness. Additionally, I’ve been jazzing up my plain Greek yogurt with a generous dollop.

This jam is our jam.

  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 2 pounds apricots
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only

Ruth Reichl's Dangerously Delicious Apricot Jam

Pull apart the apricots using your hands, leaving the skins on and removing the pits.

Ruth Reichl's Dangerously Delicious Apricot Jam

Stir the sugar and water together in a small heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring until clear, 1-2 minutes. Add half the apricots to the syrup. Simmer until they disintegrate, stirring, for about 10 minutes.

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Nước Chấm – Vietnamese Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

Nuoc Cham Recipe

Of all the family recipes I’ve learned over the years, this nuoc cham is without question the most essential. From com tam (broken rice) to banh cuon (pork and mushroom crepes) to cha gio (deep-fried spring rolls) to thit nuong (grilled pork), nearly every dish in the Vietnamese culinary cannon depends on this sweet and sour “mother” sauce to season, spice, and delight. When paired with a lackluster nuoc cham, even the most carefully prepared dishes can fall disappointingly flat.

This recipe comes from Aunt Phuong, the premier nuoc cham artist in my family. While garlic, chilies, lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce are all standard ingredients, her use of Coco Rico soda in place of water takes the vinaigrette to the next level. Though mostly mild in flavor, the coconut-tinged soda brings a crisp sweetness that water doesn’t possess. The soda’s carbonation fades just as soon as it’s combined with the sugar, so no worries about bubbly nuoc cham. Stir, stir, stir…

When stored in an airtight container, the vinaigrette will keep in the fridge for up to four months.

  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 2 Thai red chillies
  • 1 can Coco Rico soda (12 ounces)
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar (77 grams)
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  •  1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Nuoc Cham Recipe

Trim and finely mince garlic cloves and chilies. Set aside.

Nuoc Cham Recipe

Combine sugar and soda in a medium-sized bowl, stirring briskly with a large spoon to dissolve sugar completely.

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Cranberry-Apple Relish with Ginger and Chilies

Cranberry-Apple Relish with Ginger and Serrano

Traditional cranberry sauce is too sweet for the Vietnamese palate, which explains why I’ve been making and eating the fluorescent-hued condiment solo on every Thanksgiving in recent memory. A few of my cousins request a small serving out of curiosity, while an aunt or two might give it a try in the name of antioxidants, but no one really likes the chunky, fruity stuff but me. And I’m cool with that because I eat leftover cranberry sauce for fun and by the spoonful.

When I saw this recipe for cranberry-apple relish in last week’s New York Times article “Complements for the Chef” by David Tanis, I was immediately intrigued by the list of ingredients. Instead of the usual combination of simple syrup and cranberries, this one called for cider vinegar and apples with ginger, Serrano chili, and cayenne pepper flourishes. While straight up sweetness does not speak to my family, I am hoping that this tangy and spicy number with a hit of jammy-ness might do the trick.

With the assistance of my math whiz Astronomer, I adjusted the proportions from the original recipe to use an entire standard bag of cranberries (12 ounces). The recipe below reflects these changes. Other than that minor tweak and leaving the skins on the apples, this recipe is great as is. The relish’s flavors are fresh yet familiar, while the combination of chilies, ginger, and cayenne packs some real heat.

If I know my family as well as I think I do, it’s quite likely that even with this new recipe, I’ll still be the lone cranberry sauce eater at the table. And I’m cool with that because I eat leftover cranberry sauce for fun and by the spoonful. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds tart, crisp apples cut in 1/2-inch chunks
  • 12 ounces cranberries
  • 2 1/3 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeño or Serrano chili
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

Cranberry-Apple Relish with Ginger and Serrano

Begin by chopping the apples, grating the ginger, and mincing the chili.

Cranberry-Apple Relish with Ginger and Serrano

Over medium heat, in wide stainless steel skillet, heat sugar, vinegar and salt, stirring to dissolve.

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Homemade Hard Cider Mustard

Homemade Hard Cider Mustard

I made mustard from scratch! And if you don’t mind me being too pushy, I think you should give it a go too. Not only is the process outrageously easy, but the results are superior to grocery store finds. Plus, the reaction that I’ve received from friends and family when I tell them I’m making mustard has been pure awe. It’s always nice to feel like a champ in the kitchen, especially when the effort is so minimal.

A fabulous article written by Noelle Carter, the Los Angeles Times resident test kitchen manager, inspired my mustard making. The way she described the method made it sound so simple and doable:

Essentially, mustard is nothing more than a combination of seeds and liquid. Soak seeds in the fluid of your choice (water, vinegar, perhaps a double bock beer) until they’re all softened and happy, flavor the mix as desired, then grind the seeds and, voilà, homemade mustard.

The first mustard that I decided to tackle called for hard apple cider, Granny Smiths, and a combination of black and brown mustard seeds. After soaking the seeds overnight in a zingy combination of cider and vinegar, I pulsed the mixture into a chunky puree along with a fresh green apple.

The end product had definite character—the black mustard seeds, with their high concentration of sinigrin, brought a distinct burn in the back of the mouth, throat, and nose, while the tart fruit and vinegar rounded out the mustard’s sharp angles.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been slathering the condiment on everything from pretzels to Brie cheese, and using it in salad dressings and various recipes. Best of all, I’ve been sharing my creation with fellow mustard lovers on a BYOJ (bring your own jar) basis. Mustard has a way of bringing flavors and people together.

  • About ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons (2½ ounces) brown mustard seeds
  • Scant ¼ cup (1¼ ounces) black mustard seeds
  • About ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¼ ounces) mustard powder
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup flat hard apple cider
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Granny Smith or similar tart apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped (I used a food processor)

Homemade Hard Cider Mustard

Soak the mustard seeds: Place the mustard seeds and powder in a medium glass or ceramic bowl along with the cider vinegar and hard cider. Set aside, covered (but not sealed airtight), for 24 hours.

Homemade Hard Cider Mustard

Place the mixture in a food processor along with the salt and sugar, and process for 1 to 2 minutes until the seeds are coarsely ground. Add the chopped apple and pulse a few times to incorporate. This makes about 1 2/3 cups mustard.

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