Friday, August 31, 2018

Pho Goodness Sake.


I do so like a good pho. (pronounced fuh).  
What is pho, you ask?  Basically, it's a Vietnamese soup made up of a broth, herbs, and rice noodles, along with a buffet's worth of endless accompaniments and garnishes.  You can have a beef pho, phở bò, or chicken pho, phở gà.  Today, since I'm catering to vegetarians, pescaterians, and vegans, I'm making a vegetarian pho stock.  I'll serve a few bowls today and freeze the rest for later use. That way, I can start out with vegetarian and then turn it into anything I want!

I like being able to have a single bowl of pho, with whatever accents I want to use.  The problem with ordering pho at restaurants is that it's basically served in a trough.  I don't want a trough.  I want a bowl.  Also, whenever I buy soups at the ChinaMacs down here (I stopped bothering with the entrées long ago.), I want fried wontons.  The fried wontons offered here are ALWAYS STALE!  STALE!  ARGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!  How hard is it to fry a freakin' wonton?  Sheeeesh.
OK, RosieRant is over. 

If you'd like my recipe for beef pho, or  phở bò, and want to learn some of the history of the dish,
please check out my blog post, Pho Whom The Bell Tolls.

Now, for vegetarian pho basic stock, here are my step-by-steps:

First, get a bunch of onions, garlic, carrots, and celery.
Smash the garlic and coarsely chop the rest.
(Maybe 5 or 6 onions, 4 large garlic cloves, 6 or so each carrots and celery.
Like I said.  A bunch.  Numbers are not critical here.)

Heat a little oil in a large stock pot over medium heat and throw in the garlic and onions, skins and all.  (Just adds more flavor.)  Stir, cooking, about 5 minutes, slightly charring.

Add in the carrots and celery and keep cooking and stirring, about 10 minutes.

Pour in about 6 quarts of water, a teaspoon or so of kosher salt, a handful of peppercorns, and a  bunch of fresh thyme, parsley, and bay leaves.  (I have a bay tree, so I use fresh bay leaves.  If you're using dried, cut back to 2 or 3.  Dried  is stronger.)
Bring to a simmer.  Do not boil, but keep at a bare simmer.
After thirty minutes, remove the herbs.

Slice some ginger and onion, pour some oil over top, and place under broiler to brown.

In a dry skillet, toast some cinnamon stick, whole cloves, and anise.

And get you a big chunk of yellow rock sugar. 
I  have a box I bought from an Asian market up in Chesapeake.  Rock sugar is crystallized sugar, milder than regular granulated sugar.  It's commonly used in Chinese cooking, especially in soups and braised dishes.  It has a more delicate flavor than granular sugar and has flavor notes that white sugar is missing, but you can substitute demerara or raw sugar for rock if you're in a pinch.

Add the charred onion and ginger, the toasted cinnamon, cloves, and anise, and the rock sugar to the pot.

Keep at a bare simmer for another 60 minutes, skimming any froth off top.
Taste test.  Adjust seasoning.  Add kosher salt if needed.  A few tablespoons of soy sauce if you like.

And there you have a basic vegetarian pho broth.
Let cool and pour into quart and containers and freeze.

Now, when you get the itch for some pho, it's right there, ready to be thawed out, heated up,and added to.  And let me just tell you, this pho plays very well with others.

For example, I sautéed some mushrooms and added some sliced jalapeños and some mint and basil to this bowl.  Don't forget to fry up some wonton strips.

There are so many flavors in here.  It's complex.  It has depth.
And I forgot to add the noodles (which I think is what actually makes pho pho).
Tell you the truth, I didn't miss 'em.

If you're a real vegan or vegetarian, throw in some cubes of tofu.  Pretend it's meat.  HA!

Being highly carnivorous myself, I added in some seared beef.

Mint, basil, cilantro.  All work here.

Snow peas and scallions.

Ahh...  There're the noodles.

Monday, August 27, 2018

It Ain't A Birthday Without CHEESECAKE!

I can make a cheesecake at the drop of a hat.
Don't need no stinkin' recipe.
I just know.

Boy requested cheesecake for his birthday.
No problem.
I can make cheesecake in my sleep.
And every cheesecake is a little different, depending on what dairy products I have in the fridge.  If I have sour cream, I use it.  If I have ricotta cheese, I use it.  If I have cottage cheese, I use it.  If I have mascarpone cheese, I use it. (Although I don't remember ever having mascarpone lying around.)  As long as I've got cream cheese and eggs, I'm good to go.
Soooooo, I made the cheesecake with what was available, then gave it a chocolate glaze, and then poured some caramel sauce over it.
And it was good.

 I actually wrote down what I did so you can replicate it.
And you're welcome.

2 packages graham crackers
12 ginger snaps
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 TB unsalted butter, melted
Process all.
Press onto bottom and sides of 9" springform pan.

Process the crust ingredients until you get uniform crumbs.

Then firmly press into a springform pan.  Evenly.
I use a piece of plastic wrap and a mini rolling pin.

Cheesecake Filling
4 8-oz. cream cheese packages, softened
(I used 2 regular and 2 Neufchatel.  Because that's what I had.)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 tsp salt
2 TB lemon juice
2 TB flour
2 TB corn starch
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (Because it was leftover in the fridge from something else I'd made and I didn't know when I'd have another chance to use it before it went bad.)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1 TB vanilla
In a food processor, process cream cheese until smooth.  Add each ingredient, one at a time, and process until smooth before adding next ingredient.

Pour into prepared crust.  Wrap springform pan in heavy-duty foil wrap and place in a larger pan.  Pour boiling water into larger pan, 1/3- to 1/2-way up the sides of the springform pain, being careful not to splash water into the cheesecake. This is now officially a bain Marie.  The purpose of the water bath is to provide gentle and uniform heat around the cheesecake, allowing it to cook slowly and evenly.

Bake in a 325° oven for 1 hour 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and bain Marie and let cheesecake cool on rack completely.
Then refrigerate until chilled (several hours or overnight) before slicing.
Ready for baking.

Done baking.

Let cool.

Release from springform.
Pretty.  And no crack!

It's Boy's Birthday, so I'm not stopping at plain cheesecake.
Next step is a chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 TB unsalted butter
2 tsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
In a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter.  Add corn syrup and vanilla stir until smooth.
Pour over top of cooled cheesecake and spread evenly with off-set spatula.


Not one to stop at chocolate glaze, I decided to go the next step and make caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup cream
1 TB unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
In a small sauce pan, heat brown sugar and cream until dissolved and boiling.  Stir in butter and reduce to simmer.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Stir in vanilla.  Pour over cheesecake.

Like so.
Save some of that caramel to heat up later and pour over individual slices.

Ta daaaaaa!!!!!!!

Stick in a candle and call it Happy Birthday!


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Rosie Makes Shrimp Quesadillas.

I was in the mood for shrimp, spinach, mushrooms, and cheese.
So I put it all together in a quesadilla.
The fried part is just icing on the cake.

I grabbed a yepsen of spinach,
sliced a bunch of 'shrooms,
chopped up some onion and pepper,
and grated both Mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheeses.

Pour a little oil in a medium skillet over medium heat
and sauté the mushrooms for a couple of minutes.

Add in the chopped onions and peppers
and cook for another minute or so.

Then drop in the spinach leaves.
And pour in a splash of water. 

Cook for about a minute,
until the spinach slightly wilts.

Set aside.

Now, it's time for the shrimp.

Medium high heat with a tablespoon of peanut oil.

Cook the shrimp for about a minute.
Most people have a tendency to overcook their shrimp.
Don't be one of those people.
Cook it and remove it.

Take a flour tortilla.
Or corn, if you like.
And sprinkle a little cheese on the bottom.
Add some of the spinach mixture.
Then some of the shrimpies.
More grated cheese on top.
The cheese is the "glue."

Squish down.

Medium heat.
A little peanut oil in the skillet.
Brown on one side.

Then turn and brown the other side.

And there's your quesadilla.

With ooey-gooey cheese.

Give it some salsa lovin'.