Saturday, May 22, 2010

Kimchi Fried Rice

Comfort foods come in all different forms: dark chocolatey brownies, succulent roast chicken, assorted finger foods and piping-hot pizza.

Comfort foods can be sweet, salty, savory, sour or spicy, depending on my mood.

Comfort foods can be as elaborate as a Sauerbraten dinner from a $35 piece of meat that took me 3 days to prepare, or a spicy noodle dish that uses a block of 29¢ ramen and requires a mere 10 minutes to fix.

Comfort foods can present a pretty picture plated and garnished meticulously, whereas others never see a serving dish because I devour them straight out of the saucepan, right off of a wooden spoon.

In a previous entry, I spoke of Mandu, my favorite street vendor food from my time in Korea. Another one of my all-time favorite comfort meals stems from my year spent in Seoul: kimchi bokkeumbap, or Kimchi Fried Rice. The perfect late-night meal to stave off a hangover after 8 hours spent partying in Itaewon or the ideal warming dish to push off the chill of the harsh winds blowing down off the mountains on a wintry weekend evening.

Don't be scared by fermented kimchi's pungent fragrance, frying the kimchi mellows the flavor and the smell, making Kimchi Fried Rice blend well with all sorts of ingredients - leftover chicken, fried tofu strips, mushrooms, julienned carrots, fresh baby bok choy, bell pepper strips, even a drained can of albacore, but this recipe below is fantastic just as it is.

Kimchi Fried Rice

  • canola or peanut oil
  • 1 cup fermented kimchi,* cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 egg
  • sesame seeds
  • nori strips
  1. Heat some canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped up kimchi. Saute for about 5 minutes.

  2. Add the chopped onion and green onion and continue to saute for another 5 minutes.

  3. Add the sugar and salt and stir very well.

  4. Add 1 cup of the cold, cooked rice,* (See Notes) and stir well. Once it is all nicely coated, add the other cup of rice and cook for another 5 minutes.

  5. Add a drizzle (1 t or so) of dark sesame oil, stirring well.

  6. At this point, you can push the rice and kimchi to the sides and add a beaten egg to the center and scramble well.

  7. Once the egg is cooked through, push the rice and vegetables back in, mixing it all together, cooking for another 2 minutes.

  8. Serve in a bowl and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and nori strips.

  • All Kimchis are not the same. If you have a limited variety of kimchis available to you in your grocery store, you've got it easy: chances are the only kind they have for you is the fermented kimchi made from bok choy, which is just what this recipe calls for.

    If you live near a Korean grocery like I do, you may find yourself staring in shock at all the different jars of kimchi - all labeled in Korean, of course - and you might be at a loss over which one to choose. For Kimchi Fried Rice, be sure to ask for the fermented, sour kimchi instead of the fresh kimchi. I have found that the flavor of the fermented kimchi just tastes better in this recipe.

  • For best results for your fried rice dishes, whether it is Nasi Goreng from Indonesia, Thai Basil Fried Rice or Kimchi Fried Rice, you need to use cold, cooked rice. Leftover rice is the best, though sometimes I make up a batch and cool it in the fridge for an hour before making the fried rice. There is something about the hot rice that can turn the dish into a sticky, glutinous mess.

  • Sometimes I will cook the beaten egg into a crepe-like pancake in a separate pan first, let it cool and then cut into strips and use that as an additional garnish. In Korea, it was common to have kimchi fried rice served on top of a fried egg.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Roast Chicken with Lemon and Herbs

Every so often I like to plan a big meal: a big piece of roasted meat, potatoes, and an assortment of vegetables. One of our favorites, and the easiest, is this roasted chicken stuffed with lemon and herbs. I like to buy the largest chicken I can find, and big bunches of thyme and rosemary when I make this.

The incredible lemon and herb-heavy smell that fills the house after this chicken has been in the oven for about an hour is amazing. Even people with no appetite will find themselves salivating. When I make this, the cat is never very far from the kitchen the entire time, and I have learned never to walk away from the chicken when it is sitting on the counter to rest before carving.

The bonus with this recipe, in addition to the plentiful cooked white meat ready for other recipes, is that I use the carcass to make stock, which freezes well and tastes better than anything from a can or a bouillon cube. Sometimes I am pressed for time, because I have just spent an afternoon slaving over a hot stove making a big meal and then another hour or so cleaning up and putting away all of the leftovers. On those nights, I don't always feel like dealing with a big pot of stock until 10 pm, so I just put the cooled carcass in a large ziplock freezer bag, and stick it in the freezer until I am ready to make the stock.

The only drawback to this recipe is that, considering our current limited stage of genetic engineering, chickens still have only 2 wings and 2 drumsticks. My odd kids prefer the dark meat and have been known to battle, greasy-fingered, over a drumstick or a stray bit of dark meat on the platter. As frightening as the thought of some Frankenchicken may be, it would save me some arguments.

Roast Chicken with Lemon and Herbs

  • 1 whole roaster chicken, 5-7 pounds
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 T whole grain mustard (I like Maille)
  • several sprigs of fresh thyme
  • several sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves whole, peeled garlic
  • more fresh thyme and rosemary

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  2. Line a roasting pan with foil.

  3. Soften the butter in a bowl and add chopped fresh rosemary (just the leaves) and thyme (leaves and stalks) along with 1 T mustard, mix well and set aside.

  4. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze out half the juice, reserving it.

  5. Rinse the chicken well and don't forget to remove the bags of chicken guts and necks from inside. Trust me, you don't want to roast those. Pat the bird dry and set it, breast side up, in the roasting rack.

  6. Cut a few slits in the skin of the breast meat. Pour the juice from the 1/2 lemon over the chicken. Take a few bunches of the herbs and stuff them in the slits under the skin. Sometimes I even cut slits in the meat and force the herbs into the breast meat.

  7. Rub the chicken down with the butter mixture.

  8. Stuff the chicken with more bunches of herbs, the cloves of garlic, one quartered onion, the squeezed-out lemon half and the unsqueezed lemon half.

  9. With your handy roll of cooking twine, truss the bird so that nothing pops out of the cavity. Some people also truss up the wings, but I rarely do.

  10. Tent with foil and roast in a preheated oven.

  11. After one hour, take it out and baste with the juices, then remove the foil and put it back in the oven to roast for another hour or so until the juices run clear (not pink) when you poke it with something sharp. Ideally, you can use a meat thermometer in the thigh. It's done when it reads 180.

    The total roasting time depends on weight and it goes something like 20 minutes per pound plus an extra 20 minutes. How scientific, no? My 7 pound bird roasted for a good two and a half hours, and a 3 pound bird was done in an hour and a half.

  12. Move to a carving board to rest 15 minutes before slicing. Serve when ready.

  • On occasion, I have added quartered potatoes, onions and garlic to the bottom of the roasting pan to cook in the accumulated juices of the chicken. While it is as tasty as hell, the end result is often absolutely swimming in grease.

  • Lately, when I make the oven-roasted vegetables with this dish, I lay them in a single layer, wrapped in foil and placed on a cookie sheet. That slips onto the rack in the bottom of the oven. I put them in the oven after I check the chicken, one hour into the roasting.

For the potatoes:
  • 6 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 1 onion, cut into eighths
  • fresh thyme
  • fresh rosemary
  • fresh sage
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T whole grain mustard
  • 2 cloves whole, peeled garlic

  1. Line a cookie sheet with a long piece of foil.

  2. Wash and cut the potatoes, put in a big bowl with the shallots, onion and whole garlic.

  3. Add the olive oil and 1 T of mustard, mix well.

  4. Put the vegetables on the foil-lined cookie sheet in a single layer. Cover with another piece of foil and seal it up to make a packet.

  5. Place in oven and cook for an hour. After an hour, remove the top sheet of foil and let cook another 30 minutes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Favorite Things

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens;
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens;
Brown paper packages tied up with strings;
These are a few of my favorite things."

OK, so those are not necessarily my favorite things, but these are a few of my (current) favorite things:

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee

I am not as coffee-snob as others out there: I will drink day-old coffee out of desperation (even re-heated *gasp*), and I use an automatic drip coffee maker in addition to my french press instead of a coffee gourmand-approved Chemex pot. However, I buy whole beans to grind up fresh and store them in an air-tight canister on the counter, never in the freezer, and I am tempted to hunt down a local roaster to get my beans roasted for me.

I've tried a lot of different beans, and have settled on a distinct favorite, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The simple act of opening the canister holding these lovely beans releases a rush of complex scents that promise one of the best cups of coffee you will ever have.

I actively proselytize the merits of this bean, and have occasionally run into some smartass who makes the comment, "Ethiopia? They have coffee in Ethiopia?" Ok, they may not have a Starbucks on every corner in Addis Ababa, but according to legend, to first person to discover the peculiar benefits of the coffee beans was a 9th century AD Ethiopian shepherd who noticed his sheep acting strangle after chowing down on some funky red berries. Apparently not the cautious type, he tried a few and became the first person to experience that somewhat manic thrill of the caffeine buzz.

Although this story is most likely apocryphal - for starters I can't believe that people waited that long to sample those berries. I mean, we'd been drinking wine and beer for centuries already, how could the ancients have avoided trying just about every berry or plant they came across - most people do believe that the coffee plant originated in this part of the world.

So much for Juan Valdez and his donkey.

Chocolate-covered Espresso Beans

If you are ever in need of a fairly quick caffeine and chocolate-induced high, grab some of these. Now you may see the chocolate and coffee pairing and say, "Oh, mocha. How nice," but this is about as far away from that standard anemic mocha as you can get. This is a gorgeous symbiosis of flavor that absolutely explodes in your mouth with each satisfied crunch.

I am not a fan of mocha, in fact. I don't like most flavored coffees. I always got the impression that they took lower quality beans and tried to mask the flaws by painting over them with chemical analogues of other flavors - hazelnut, blueberry, French vanilla. Usually, I find them cloyingly sweet, completely overpowering the coffee essence, though that is probably the point.

With these chocolate-covered beans, you get a burst of coffee and chocolate every time.

Chocolate-covered Cacao Nibs

I remember in one scene from the movie "Chocolat," how raw cacao nibs supposedly brought a husband's hidden passion boiling to the surface. I thought to myself, "Man, I have to try those sometime." I priced them out on the internet and found that you're really paying for that rawness. Quite by accident, I found these chocolate-covered cacao nibs in the natural foods section of Wegman's.

I tore into the bag as soon as I got home. About 5 minutes later, I looked into the depths of that empty bag, stunned, wanting just one more, even a crumb. Those mis-shapen, crunchy bits of pure chocolate fusion blew my taste buds.

Oh, plus, they're chock-full of antioxidants as Dr. Oz would say!

Ha! No one eats chocolate for the antioxidants. It's not as though it were a forkful of broccoli. "Oh," you sigh, "If I MUST." Hell no. We eat this stuff because it tastes so goddamn good.

These are no exception.

Maple Sugar Candy

I live in a maple syrup-producing state, so why is it so difficult to find maple sugar candy and granulated maple sugar? I can understand the expense: they boil down 40 gallons of sap for just 1 gallon of syrup, and then even further to extract the sugar. There is more demand for the syrup than the sugar, so I get why I might not be able to find large bags of it in the grocery store next to Domino's granulated white sugar, but still, it should not be completely unattainable.

I can usually only ever find the candy at the local orchard stores, and even then, a tiny bag of 6 candies or so costs about $3.50. I have never seen maple butter or jars of granulated maple sugar there.

One time I made a maple-walnut apple pie by crushing up 10 maple sugar candies and mixing them in with the apples and ground walnuts. It was a wee bit expensive, and in my kids eyes, would have been a tragedy if the pie hadn't tasted so good. Still, next time, I'd like to have a jar of the real stuff.

Pink Himalayan Salt

I know, this is the big trend right now, this and cooking on those large slabs of this pink salt, but when I saw the little jar of these pink crystals, I could not help myself.

I mean, I don't even like the color pink, but these just look so cool in my sea salt grinder. Plus, I get a kick out of knowing that I am eating something whose age can be counted on a geological time-line.

Besides, did I mention that it is pink?

I can't leave without including the song.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


The girls had a half day of school today and requested pizza for lunch. There's nothing better than getting the kids to make their own food (mostly) on their own, so I agreed. As much as I love pizza - it is the staff of life, after all - I decided that I wanted something a bit different than my usual pizza. At first I was thinking spinach and ricotta calzones. I was remembering these awesome spinach, mushroom and ricotta calzones I used to get from a pizza joint near SU, when I was struck by a memory of their stromboli- even better than their calzones.

As you'll see from the recipe directions, this is NOT a low-fat dish. Dear God, there is enough fat in the assorted meats to make a cardiologist blanch. In addition, the fact that I sauteed the vegetables in the delicious rendered fat from the sausage would have Bob and Jillian from The Biggest Loser over here to kick my ass. But oh my GOD does it make it taste good!

Since I only ever eat this occasionally, it won't hurt me much, right?

makes 2 8-inch stromboli


For the dough:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 T RapidRise Yeast
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • Italian seasoning (optional)
  • garlic powder(optional)
  • onion powder (optional)

  • 1/2 cup hot water (between 120-130 F)
  • 1 T olive oil
For the filling:
  • 6 slices capicola
  • 6 slice sopressatta (or genoa salami)
  • 6 slices provolone
  • olive oil
  • 2 spicy Italian sausage (or sweet Italian sausage)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 red onion, sliced into thin strips
  • pepperoni


  1. Crumble the Italian sausage and cook(spicy or sweet, your choice) in some olive oil until nicely browned. Remove the browned sausage with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.

  2. Saute the bell pepper strips in the same pan with all of the rendered fat from the sausage until they start to soften and then add the onion. Saute until everything is nice and soft and just starting to brown. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

  3. Preheat the oven to 450. You want the kitchen to be good and warm.

  4. Put 1 cup of the flour in a large bowl along with the yeast granules, salt and Italian seasoning, garlic powder and onion powder.

  5. Mix very well with a whisk, breaking up any clumps.

  6. Test the temperature of the water (very important when you are using RapidRise yeast). When it is about 125 F, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon until all of the water is incorporated.

  7. On a well-floured surface (I just use a clean counter) dump out the dough. At this point it is a wet, scary-looking, shaggy mess. Don't worry. You still have 1/2 cup of flour nearby.

  8. Knead the dough and work in the extra flour one small handful at a time. It takes a good 4-6 minutes to get the right amount of flour in. Because there is oil in it, the dough will still be slightly tacky, though not sticky. If it's sticky, keep adding flour.

    How I like to knead: I fold over half the dough and press it in, then I turn the whole ball of dough a quarter turn, and keep on folding and pressing, adding more flour to the counter and to the dough as it absorbs.

  9. Once the dough is slightly silky, shape it into a ball, re-flour a bit of the counter, set the ball on it and dust it with more loose flour then cover it with a cloth. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes, longer is better, like 30 minutes.

  10. When you are ready to shape it, remove the cloth. It ought to have risen nicely - if it did not, chances are the kitchen is too cold or the yeast died. So sad. :(

    Punch it down and divide it into 2 pieces.

  11. Oil a pan with olive oil (or cooking spray).

  12. Place the ball of dough on a floured surface (I use my silicon pastry mat), and starting in the middle of the ball, flatten it gently. DO NOT PULL or STRETCH THE DOUGH That will just rip holes in it. With your fingertips, press down, gently flattening the dough into a 6 x 10 inch rectangle. Take your time. If the dough seems stiff and unyielding, let it rest in a warm place for 5 - 10 minutes and then continue shaping it.

  13. Optional- let it sit in a warm spot and rise 10 minutes... OR

  14. Top it immediately. Leaving an 1 1/2 inch border around the dough, I lay down 3 slices of capicola, then the sopressatta and provolone. Next, I add the browned Italian sausage, the sauteed peppers and onions. Finally I top with a layer of pepperoni.

  15. Very carefully, roll it the long way pretty tightly, pinching the seams.

  16. Repeat steps 10-13 with the second ball of dough.

  17. Place the 2 stromboli on a cookie sheet. Brush the top with olive oil

  18. Bake in a preheated 400-F degree oven for 10 minutes. Take out and brush the tops with a bit more olive oil and sprinkle the tops with grated parmesan. Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes until golden brown.

  19. Remove to a wire rack to cool, and let sit for a good 5 minutes before slicing.

  • This dough recipe doubles and triples very well. It is my basic pizza dough recipe and is very forgiving.

  • It reheats nicely, wrapped tightly in foil in a 400 degree oven, and it tastes even better when reheated.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spicy Peanut Noodles

I absolutely love peanut butter. I prefer natural varieties. My current favorite is Smucker's Naturals, chunky, of course. I haven't bought the standard sugar and salt-laden pb in so long that when I had some a few months ago at someone else's house, I was shocked at how cloyingly sweet it was. Plus, for some reason, the texture struck me as unnatural and kind of icky.

Food confession: I love peanut butter so much that I will sometimes eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon and call that a snack or a mini-meal. Now, I don't particularly care for peanut butter paired with sweet foods, except when combined with chocolate of course; I generally prefer peanut butter with savory foods. When I crave a peanut butter sandwich, I am more likely to add wheat germ and sunflower seeds instead of jam or jelly.

A nice spicy peanut sauce will really make my taste buds happy. Pair it with chicken, or tofu like I did today, toss in some noodles, and we're in business.

Spicy Peanut Noodles

  • Cooking oil (peanut or canola)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 onion, halved and then sliced into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • the whites of 2 green onions, chopped
  • Minced fresh ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1/4 package of tofu, pressed of water and cut into strips
  • Noodles, vermicelli, spaghetti, Chinese noodles, whichever you prefer - today I used a block of ramen noodles
  • 1/3 cup peanut sauce, jarred or homemade*
  • Sesame oil
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Green onions, chopped (optional)
  • Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Pour some oil into a large skillet, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes and let sit.

  2. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Drain the noodles, put them in a bowl and toss them with 1 T of sesame oil. Let sit and cool.

  3. Over high heat, sauté the onions, ginger until onions are just starting to brown.

  4. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Toss in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

  5. Add the strips of tofu and cook until golden brown.

  6. Add the peanut sauce to the skillet, stirring to coat well. Taste frequently and adjust seasonings to your liking. Add more of the sauce if you like.

  7. Toss the drained noodles into the skillet, mixing everything well.

  8. Garnish with chopped peanuts, green onion and sesame seeds.

*Homemade peanut sauce

  • 3 cloves of garlic.
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 2 T honey or agave nectar
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 2 T. chili oil
  • 1 chopped hot chili
  1. Put the garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

  2. Add the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.

  3. Add water to thin the consistency if you find it necessary.

  4. Refrigerate any unused sauce in a tightly-lidded container.

  5. You may use more or less chili pepper to suit your taste for spiciness.
  • I might start a series of recipes titled "Things to Do With Ramen Noodles."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Risotto with Pancetta and Peas

Last night I had such a craving for a nice risotto, but I wanted something different from my two standbys, Wild Mushroom Risotto with Pancetta and Thyme and Spinach Risotto with Toasted Pine Nuts. Now, while perusing the Chow discussion boards, I came across what I call the Holy Grail of risottos, a Toasted Pistachio Gorgonzola Dolce risotto so rich and sumptuous that I can only imagine allowing myself to make it as a very special occasion. Of course it might well be the case that the special occasion is making that risotto.

Nevertheless, in order to do justice to the exacting recipe (I still have not found a truly excellent olive oil), I decided to wait. Setting that decadent recipe aside *deep sigh of longing* I continued to search out something new. I found a Sweet Carrot Risotto which looks absolutely divine. The only problem was that I had only one measly carrot in my vegetable drawer. I didn't feel like going out to the store for 2 bags of organic carrots, so I kept looking.

I stumbled across a delicious-looking Pumpkin Risotto at La Cucina Italiana. Perfect, I thought. I have several packages of pumpkin puree in the freezer from last fall. I could thaw one out and be all set with a creamy, luscious dish of savory pumpkin goodness. The recipe as it stood was not exactly what I craved, but I thought I could experiment a bit and tweak it. The problem? Once I had the pumpkin half-thawed in the microwave, it had a funky smell to it. Argh. So aggravating!

By that time I already had the pancetta diced and the shallots minced. What to do? I took another foray into my freezer and spied a bag of frozen peas. Ok. Pancetta and Pea Risotto. Simple, but still sublime.

Risotto with Pancetta and Peas

  • 1/8 oz. pancetta
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • shallots, finely minced
  • garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • chicken broth, heated
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano

  1. Heat the chicken broth in a saucepan.

  2. In a wide skillet, saute the diced pancetta in a bit of olive oil over medium high heat until browned. remove the pancetta and set aside.

  3. To the mixture of hot oil and rendered fat, add a tablespoon of unsalted butter and let melt and foam. Add the shallots and saute for one minute, then add the garlic. Stir well for another minute and do not let burn.

  4. Add the rice and stir until well coated.

  5. Add the white wine and stir until all the liquid is absorbed.

  6. Add the hot stock one ladleful at a time, until it is all absorbed into the rice. Stir very well.

  7. After about 15 minutes after you added the first ladle of stock, the liquid should start to look creamy from the starch released by the rice. Taste the rice for doneness. It should be firm, but not chalky in the center.

  8. Add one more ladle of stock and stir in the cheese. Fold in the peas and the pancetta and stir until heated through. You may add a bit more butter if you like.

  9. Plate in a shallow bowl and garnish with more grated pecorino. Serve immediately.

  1. For some reason, every single time I cook with pancetta, I smoke up the entire house. I never have this problem with regular old bacon or smoked sausages, but the pancetta sends smoke up billowing. I have to run the downstairs ceiling fans, open all the windows and the front door to clear the place out.

    I have tried frying it in a dry pan, in an oiled pan, in a buttered pan, but the result is always the same. Next time I may try a lower flame and see if that makes a difference.

  2. For some reason, when I make risotto, I prefer pecorino romano to parmigianno reggiano.

  3. For this recipe, I found that extra salt and pepper are unnecessary. The pancetta is plenty peppery on its own, and cooking the rice in the rendered fat infuses the risotto with all that flavor. The chicken broth adds the necessary salt.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


We've been pretty heavy into the Friday night Pizza and movie night the past few months. Last night I thought that we needed something different. Next to pizza, my kids' favorite treat is take-out Chinese. The girls have discovered a deep and abiding love for wonton soup and pan-fried Chinese dumplings (jiaozi). If they had their way, we'd get takeout Chinese food every week!

Jiaozi are quite similar to the Korean snack Yakki-mandu/Geun-mandu, which are a popular street vendor food. Vendors would deep fry batches of frozen mandu and serve them in a waxed paper cone. Home cooks in Korea often make them fresh and then pan-fry them, as seen in the following video:

Mandu are my number one favorite street vendor food from my time in Korea. I got seriously addicted to these when I was there, and adapted a recipe for them when I got back. I like these as an appetizer for large family gatherings because when I make them, I bake them in large batches instead of subjecting them to the fryer. I also shape my mandu differently from the traditional fat crescent shape of mandu/jiaozi. Nevertheless, they are probably my most-requested party food.

A few years ago, I started letting the girls help me make the mandu. It's a time-consuming process, because for a typical party I may make as many as 200 of them. We manage to have fun together, listening to music, singing and telling jokes.

Since I am trying to spend less money on take-out in addition to getting them involved with me in the kitchen, like with the homemade personal pizzas, I thought that we could have mandu for our Friday night homemade takeout. When I mentioned it to the girls, they cheered. So yesterday, the girls and I sat at the dining room table and churned out about 120 mandu for our very own version of takeout Chinese food night.

I'm positive that I'm spending less money on takeout than I was before, and I know I am enjoying these DIY nights as much as the girls are. I hope that you enjoy this recipe. :)

Babs's Mandu

  • 1 Pkg egg roll wrappers (makes 80 mandu)/or 1 Pkg wonton wrappers (makes appr. 50 slightly larger mandu)*
  • 2-3 eggs, beaten
  • Filling (recipes and suggestions follow)
  • Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)
  • Cooking spray

*Note: I usually use the egg roll wrappers because they make more mandu for about the same price, but first you have to cut them into quarters. Take out about 20 at a time, and put the rest back in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap and a damp paper towel on top so they don’t dry out.
  1. Preheat the oven to 375, and spray a cookie sheet with the cooking spray.

  2. Moisten all four edges of a wrapper with the beaten egg, and then place a scant teaspoonful of the filling into the center. Take two adjacent corners (not opposite, that is) and bring them together, then bring up the other two corners, and then press all four down onto the center, closing it into a little package.*

  3. Brush the top with more egg and repeat over and over and over until you are sick of the sight of them!

  4. Before placing the sheet in the oven, spray them with the cooking spray, then bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the tops brown. Serve with dipping sauce.

I usually make them in advance and then reheat them for 3 minutes in the microwave. Alternately, you can reheat them in a 300-degree oven for 15 minutes.

*You may fold them in different ways, too; just simply fold them over into little triangles or into little envelopes. If you are using different fillings, it’s good to choose different folds just to differentiate them.


Beef filling: Brown approximately 1 lb ground beef (chuck, round or sirloin, but a leaner cut is better) and drain the fat. Then in a large bowl, mix the meat with chopped scallions, toasted sesame seeds and soy sauce or House of Tsang’s Korean-style Teriaki marinade (available at Price Chopper).

If you are baking these rather than frying them, YOU MUST cook the beef ahead of time. You can make these more traditionally by simmering them in broth, deep-frying or pan-frying. In those cases, you do not have to pre-cook the meat.

Crab rangoon filling: 6oz lump crab meat mixed with chopped scallions, 1 T soy sauce, diced pimento and 8oz softened cream cheese. Serve those mandu with Sweet and Sour sauce.

Tofu filling: mash tofu with a little tabasco, chopped scallions, cream cheese, sesame seeds and soy sauce. Use the same dipping sauce as the meat-filled mandu.

Dipping Sauce (Chojang):

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
sliced green onion

Lucy demonstrates a few of the steps in making mandu:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini

When I was growing up, our school hot lunch menu boasted chicken or turkey tetrazzini every week. I remember trying it once and nearly gagging at the overly-salty thick sauce and the texture of the mushy peas and limp slivered almonds. I swore never to eat anything tetrazzini ever again.

Then, a few years ago, I hosted Christmas for the first time and despite having a houseful of dinner guests, I found myself staring at a plate of leftover turkey meat piled high. There was no way, I thought, that we could possibly get through all of that meat just by eating turkey sandwiches, so I delved into my then-new copy of The Joy of Cooking, desperate for recipes for leftover turkey.

I recall shuddering when I turned the page and glanced down at "Chicken or Turkey Tetrazzini," but as my eyes strolled over the ingredients I thought that it didn't sound half-bad. Why not, right? After all, even though the school lunch pizzas were among the worst I have ever had, I certainly do not shun pizza. Perhaps I had just never had good tetrazzini.

Well, it was delicious, but really, with a luscious sauce made from heavy cream, milk, broth and freshly grated parm, how could it be otherwise?

I make this quite often after I have made a roast chicken, and I have made some adjustments to suit the palates of my kids:
  • no almonds - they are not fans of random nuts in their main dishes;

  • rotini instead of spaghetti or fettucine - if it si a baked pasta dish, they prefer elbows, penne or twisty pasta shapes

  • individual dishes - this goes straight back to Hell's Kitchen. They are mightily impressed by individual baking dishes; they said that it looks fancier and fancier is usually better. :)

Chicken Tetrazzini

  • Cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • 4 oz. cremini mushrooms (baby bellas/Italian brown mushrooms), sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • fresh thyme
  • sherry
  • 2 T flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • nutmeg
  • cooked pasta (I cooked up 1/2 of a 1-lb box)
  • green peas (cooked)
  • freshly grated parm
  • panko

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

  2. Melt 1 T butter and 2 T olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the mushrooms over medium-high heat until the mushroom liquid evaporates, about 8 minutes.

  3. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another 2 minutes,

  4. Add the sherry and stir well until the liquid reduces. Turn off the heat and add the shredded, cooked chicken to the skillet, mixing to coat well. Fold in the peas, set aside.

  5. In a sauce pan, melt 1 1/2 T butter over medium high heat. Add about 3 tablespoons of flour to make a roux. Add the broth, milk, cream, nutmeg salt and pepper, cover and bring to a near-boil. Uncover and reduce heat to low and simmer until thick, about 10 minutes.

  6. Add 1/2 cup grated parm and stir well.

  7. Divide the chicken and mushroom mixture into 4 mini casserole dishes, and ladle the sauce over the mixture. Top with panko and more grated parm.

  8. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the top starts to brown.

If you double this recipe, it should fit into a 2-quart casserole dish and serve 6 quite nicely.
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