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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bacon and Soufflé's King of Steaks

It is hard to believe that Philly Cheese Steaks have a history dating back to the 1930s, and all from a small shop, Pat's. Today, it is Pat's King of Steaks. And Philly Cheese Steaks can now be found in every city. A classic Philly Cheese Steak has 3 main components: hoagie roll, processed american cheese, and steak. Several versions have come about since then - pizza topped cheese steaks, buffalo wing cheese steaks, steak sauce cheese steaks, etc. Is it still considered a Philly Cheese Steak?

Asian Style Philly Cheese Steaks served in Romaine Leaves

In my opinion, there can definitely exist better versions of certain food. Some dishes, though, call for very specific ingredients and probably taste best with those exact ingredients working together. Philly Cheese Steak is one I do not mind changing up. I've always felt that the hoagie roll makes the sandwich overly heavy, leaving my stomach feeling uneasy. The steak usually tastes perfectly juicy but is a little light on flavoring. For dinner I created a variation of this famous dish - Asian Style Philly Cheese Steaks.

Ingredients include onions, garlic, mushrooms, steak, cheese, and rice. Sauces used include soy sauce, hoisin, brown sugar, sesame oil, rice wine, and butter. Lettuce leaves replace the rolls for a healthier and crunchier option. Although rice is also a starch, using leftover cooked white rice makes it taste light as opposed to sticky or starchy. I served the cheese steaks with some roasted green beans - what a quick and easy dinner!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bye bye, IKEA

IKEA was my first (and unfortunately, my only) encounter with Swedish meatballs, so when I thought about creating the dish, the idea of making an unfamiliar dish scared and excited me at the same time. How nice would it be to enjoy those delicious meatballs comfortably at home as opposed to snacking on them in between shopping for chairs and office desks?

Like Germany, Swedish food tends to be practical and sustaining, but like the country itself, neighboring countries have extended their influence over Swedish cuisine. Swedish meatballs, probably Sweden's most popular and well-known dish, are usually accompanied by lingonberry jam. I figured that the jam is probably served to not only sweeten, but also lighten the thick creamy meatball sauce. I decided to reinvent this dish to create a modern Swedish Napoleon.

Swedish Napoleon - Swedish Meatballs, served with Cherry syrup and Whipped Sour Cream

I boiled down some fresh cherries and sugar to create a fresh cherry syrup to replace the lingonberry jam. I used puff pastry to give the dish some starch and crunchy texture. I also fluffed up some sour cream and milk (using a beater) to bridge all the layers together to create an explosion of flavors when you take your first bite. I will say this much - IKEA is no longer good enough for me!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Finally. Spotlight on Polenta

Tonight was my very first attempt at making homemade polenta. Because of this special day, I did not want my polenta to go unnoticed like mashed potatoes when served with prime rib (who notices the mashed potatoes anyway) or rice when served with teriyaki chicken. I wanted the polenta to be memorable. 

Braised Chicken and Italian Sausage over Soft Polenta
served with Brussel Sprouts Two Ways

My logic went something like this: cheesy polenta, will go with spicy italian sausage, too much sausage will overpower polenta, how about chicken, chicken is not rich enough in flavor, how about sausage and chicken together, braised, in white wine and tomatoes, yes. As I had hoped, the polenta soaked up all the complex flavors of the braising broth and was absolutely perfect. 

My secret to making perfect polenta is the use of parmigiano-reggiano. While parmesan is the same cheese but produced outside of those original Italian cities, parmigiano-reggiano is held to much stricter aging standards. Thus, using this specific cheese gives a  sharper taste to the polenta. Try it, and you will become a believer like me. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Take Me to Paris

I have a love and hate relationship with French Cuisine. Growing up, French food never appealed to me, let alone French restaurants. I remember frowning everytime a plate was put in front of me, with food that can be swallowed in less than one bite. Aside from the small plates, each course seems to take ridiculously long to prepare because I rarely see the next course until all topics of conversation have been covered at the table. 

I am not sure how it happened - all I know is that as I cooked more and more, I noticed that every complex dish consists of French influences. A good cook knows that good food comes from patience and methodical cooking, and that's what French cooking is. 
Braised Beef Short Ribs, served with Creamed Spinach and Steamed Rice, accompanied by a glass of Merlot

Beef short ribs can be prepared in many ways: braised, grilled, barbeque'd, and seared. The French prefer braising in order to extract as much flavor as possible from the ingredients. Another key reason behind braising is actually the sauce, which can be made easily by thickening the beef broth used in braising. I served the dish with steamed rice and creamed spinach to accentuate its creaminess.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fine Food Within Reach

A little more than a year ago, a gourmet home cooked dinner for two consisted of grilled chicken, steamed broccoli and brown rice. Things have changed since then - my then-boyfriend (now husband) has taken me to more places than I can count. Together, we have explored and learned to truly appreciate cuisines all over the world, inspiring me to introduce new dinner ideas to the comfort of our own home.
A peek at our kitchen
Any feedback, suggestions, thoughts are welcome here. I believe that a good cook learns through experience and a great cook learns through exposure.