Perfect Broiche Buns

Perfect Brioche Buns

Hey y’all! Happy Memorial Day weekend!!!

What is everyone up to? Camping? Beach bonfires? BBQ grilling?

Perfect Brioche Buns

If grilling is on your to do list for tomorrow, I’ve got a little something that will be a GAME CHANGER for you—the most perfect Brioche Buns!

Remember when my fam bam made these seafood burgers the other month for our Sunday Family Dinner?

Seafood Burgers

The seafood patties and fixins’ were definitely the star of the show but the buns….OH THE BUNS! It’s what took things over the top!

Perfect Brioche Buns

The recipe comes from the former Comma Ca restaurant in LA and have been on my must-bake list for a long time now. And I’ve got to tell you, after having made them, I will look no further because they really are perfect.

Perfect Brioche Buns

Fluffy but firm enough to be able to hold your burgers or sammies together.

And take a look at the crumb! I die.

Perfect Brioche Buns

They’re buttery yet slightly sweet and can be topped with anything from sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or garlic and onions.

Perfect Brioche Buns

So even if you have already picked up a package of buns from the store—nix them! Because when you pull out these perfect Brioche Buns to serve your fam and loves ones, they will likely break out into song and dance to sing your praises.

I’m talking full on High School Musical style…

Errrrr...you know what I mean.

Perfect Brioche Buns

Make these now! Make them forever!

And absolutely make these for Memorial Day! Have a great weekend friends ! <3

_____________________________________

Brioche Buns
Makes 8 large buns

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 ½ tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups bread flour
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

In a glass measuring cup, combine 1 cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat 1 egg.

In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, unfloured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.

Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange 2 to 3 inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let buns rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours.

Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

*Recipe from the New York Times via Comma Ca restaurant, Los Angeles

Sui Gao Noodle Soup – Happy Birthday Dad!

Dad's Birthday

Our family is filled with lots of May babies—-Mom, cousie, sis-in-law, yours truly….and today is DAD’S BIRTHDAY!!!

Dad's Birthday

Dad’s family is originally from the Đà Nẵng and Huế area of Việt Nam—which in my opinion, has DEE BEST food in the country!

The son of a mason, Dad entered the Vietnamese navy and became quite the head honcho. And after our family came to the states, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota (GO GOPHERS!) and became an engineer.

Dad's Birthday

Anyone know what a layout engineer oversees?

Yeah… neither do I. :) I’ve asked Dad to explain it to me a billion of times over the years but my non-science, non-mathematical mind can’t process stuff like that.

But he was awesome at it—and did I mention that he draws the best cartoons/pictures for his grand kids?

Dad's Birthday

There were definitely a lot of perks being the youngest of five kids–particularly since by the time I started junior high, my seester closest in age to me was already in college. Yes, Dad and Mom were still strict with my upbringing but quite honestly, by the time they got to me, they definitely loosened the reigns. Not to mention all of the extra treats I got since the older kids were, well…. older. :)

Weekend breakfasts at McDonald’s (to this day, one of my favorite guilty pleasures), excursions for sweet potato-shrimp fritters in Little Saigon……

Dad's Birthday

And one of my childhood favorites–excursions to Sam Woo Restaurant (三和), which now is a popular, thriving restaurant chain.

Sui Gao

Sam Woo is known for their Hong Kong and Cantonese style cuisine. But despite their endless menus (both from their Sam Woo BBQ Restaurant and Sam Woo Seafood Restaurant), I’ve always gravitated towards their roasted suckling pig and dumpling noodle bowls.

Sui Gao

The luscious roasted pork is lightly seasoned with five spice and topped with it’s beautifully crisped pork skin. Seester calls it “meat candy” and I’m 100% on board with that.

Sui Gao

As for their noodle bowls, I mostly see folks ordering their standard wonton noodle soup or duck noodle soups. Both are very good, but really….it’s all about their Sui Gao Noodle Soup. Often also seen as “shui kao”, “sui gow”, “sui kow” or “sui gaw”.

Sui Gao

So what’s the difference between “wontons” and  “sui gao”?

There are a ton of different explanations to this but when I asked one of the times I was at Sam Woo, they told me that sui gao, or water dumplings” should be much larger in size than standard wontons.

Sui Gao

Second, I was told that along with minced shrimp, there must be “fat” included in the filling. After a little more digging, I realized that he meant lard or chopped pork fat—both can be found in the butcher section of almost any Asian grocery store.

As for me, I opt to skip on the lard and use a fattier ground pork. I find that it still provides just enough moisture and flavor as the lard.

Sui Gao

Lastly, they told me that sui gao should have minced water chestnuts for crunch and mushrooms for richer flavor.

Are these the only differences? Well, based on my Sam Woo intel, those are the major differences. But whatever it is…they are freaking delicious.

Sui Gao

So to celebrate Dad’s Birthday, I wanted to share with you all my version of Sui Gao Noodle Soup. It’s hearty yet somehow light at the same time…and really, at the end of the day, it’s like having a comforting hug in a bowl.

Sure, it does take a few steps to make but you can definitely make large batches of the sui gao and freeze them for a rainy day. But best of all, while I was folding the dumplings, I couldn’t help but reminisce on all of the wonderful times Dad would take Mom and I for a large bowl of sui gao with roasted pork on the side.

Dad's Birthday

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!!!  Heo Yeahhh! <3

______________________________________
Sui Gao Noodle Soup
Makes 6 bowls with additional dumplings

Ingredients:

Sui Gow Dumplings (makes approximately 40-45 dumplings):
½ pound shrimp, shelled and devined
½ pound ground pork
½ heaping cup finely chopped shiitake mushrooms
4-5 water chestnuts, rinsed and minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1½ tablespoon finely minced garlic
2 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro
1 teaspoon rice flour or cornstarch
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ tablespoon sesame oil
1 package sui gao dumpling wrappers (round dumpling wrappers)
cornstarch

Other:
2 quarts shrimp stock
1 quart chicken stock
2 inch knob fresh ginger
½ small white onion
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
12 ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles
1 small bunch bok chok, trimmed and washed
4 ounces beech mushrooms or oyster mushrooms
chili oil
sesame oil
1 scallion, chopped

Prepare the sui gao. On a cutting board, chop and mince the shrimp until it becomes a paste. Transfer to a large bowl and add the remaining items (except the wrappers and cornstarch) for the sui gao filling. Mix all the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Prepare the broth. In a large stock pot, add the shrimp and chicken stock. Add in the ginger, onion, peppercorns, soy sauce and fish sauce. Bring the liquids to a boil and lower to a simmer. Allow the broth to simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and add more soy sauce as needed. Keep warm.

While the broth simmers, prepare the sui gao. Lay one sui gao wrapper on a flat surface. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center. Pick up the sui gao and fold it in half. Firmly seal the edges by pinching and pressing the edges together—try and remove as much excess air as possible. Place the filled sui gao on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch or lined with parchment paper to avoid them sticking to the pan. Repeat until all of the filling has been used.

Bring another large pot of water to a boil. Boil the egg noodles according to the package until al dente. Remove the noodles from the pot (saving the boiling water) and drain in a colander. Divide the noodles amongst six bowls.

Using the same pot of boiling water, add 7-8 sui gao dumplings. Once the water comes back to a boil, lower the heat to medium. Boil the sui gao for about 7-8 minutes until they float on the surface of the water, stirring every minute or so. Transfer to a platter and cover to keep warm. Repeat until all the sui gao have been cooked.

To serve, bring the broth to a rolling boil. Drop in the bok choy and mushrooms into the stock. Allow the vegetables to cook for 45-60 seconds and then divide them amongst the six bowls. Top each bowl with 3-4 sui gao dumplings and ladle the hot broth into each of the bowls. Top each bowl with a drizzle of chili oil, sesame oil and scallions. Serve immediately.

*If you would like to freeze the sui gao, place the baking sheet directly into freezer for 4-5 hours after you have assembled them. Be sure that the dumplings are in a single layer and are not touching each other. Once the dumplings have frozen, you may transfer them to a sealed container. They can be kept in the freezer for a few months and should be cooked frozen. Add 1-2 additional minutes to the cooking time when boiling the frozen dumplings.*

Korean Inspired Ribeye Steak – Happy Birthday Mom!

May 10th

It’s May 10th which means it’s not only Mother’s Day but also, our Mom’s Birthday!

She would have been 74 this year (eek! She’s probably yelling at me for disclosing that!) but I’m quite certain she would have looked no older than maybe 55….ok, may 60 :)

May 10th

The woman had some crazy good skin! She would often tell me when I was growing up to always use upward strokes when applying facial lotion to go against gravity.

But come to think of it….how does one say “gravity” in Vietnamese again? Eh, I must have just known what she was talking about.

May 10th

Today started off very much like it has for the past few years on Mom’s birthday. As I’ve written in her birthday posts before, it kicked off with a delish breakfast that I picked up at Panera Bread. When Mom and Dad moved to Florida, they went crazy for Panera Bread and would go weekly for French onion soup and their fantastic egg soufflés.

Luckily, I was able to snag the last Spinach and Bacon Egg Soufflé which was decadently wonderful.

May 10th

After brekkie I started going through old pics of Mom for this post and couldn’t help but smile.

I mean, the woman was a serious F-A-S-H-I-O-N-I-S-T-A….and I’m talking all the way back to when she was a kid.

May 10th

Neither her family or my dad’s were wealthy but she someone how managed to rock it out in the countrysides of  Việt Nam with Sophia Loren style sunglasses, patent leather pumps, itty-bitty mini-dresses and beautifully tailored & formfitting áo dàis.

May 10th

And this sense of style never waned through the years.

To this day, I wonder if Dad ever knew how often Mom would hide her shopping loot in the car or in the back of the closets only to tell him days later when she was wearing the new item that it was actually years and years old.

Sneaky woman.

May 10th

And as you know, Mom was an incredible cook.

I think most people say that about their moms but for reals, ours was awesome.

May 10th

When I shared my Vegetarian Chap Chae recipe a couple of years ago, I talked a little bit about how Mom and Dad went through a major Korean phase. They would watch Korean soap operas/dramas, buy Korean cookbooks, make and jar their own types of kimchees, and of course–go to town on Korean BBQ.

May 10th

Since I make a steak every year on Mama’s birthday (she was a carnivorous steak-loving 4’9″ woman), I decided to take a Korean spin. When grilling up (or pan-cooking) steaks, I rarely will use a marinade. I think the straight up taste of beef with some salt and pepper can’t be beat.

But this is for Mom and a little variation from time to time is good for you.

Korean Inspired Ribeye Steak

I opted for a ribeye cut (my fav) and doctored some of my go-to Korean BBQ beef marinade. It’s filled with all kinds of goodness like soy, ginger, garlic, fresh OJ, and of course–grated Asian pear. The latter is for some added sweetness and the acidity helps tenderize the meat.

If you want to add a kick of spice, add a few dollops of gojuchang — Korean fermented chili paste.

Korean Inspired Ribeye Steak

I chose to use a cast iron skillet to cook the steak instead of using a grill because I prefer how the meat caramelizes on the skillet.

But hey– if you prefer, fire up the grill!

Korean Inspired Ribeye Steak

I like my steak on the medium to medium-rare side and served it up with a bed of rice and bok choy. I threw the marinade used for the steak in a small sauce pan, cooked and reduced it down, and then drizzled it over the beef.

I’ve got to tell ya. It was dang good and quite the lunch to celebrate Mama. There’s no doubt that she would have loved it.

542895_10151658797575481_1938271687_n

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND MOTHER’S DAY MAMA!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 8 years since you’ve been with us but not a day goes by where we don’t think of you! We miss your feistiness, strength, stubbornness, laughter, and COOKING!!

_________________________________________

Korean Inspired Ribeye Steak
Serves 2

Ingredients:

¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey or agave
1 tablespoon mirin
juice of one small orange
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon Gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper powder)
½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (more for garnish)
kosher salt
black pepper
½ tablespoon brown sugar
½ small Asian pear, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
½ inch piece fresh ginger, finely grated
2 scallions, chopped (more for garnish)
1 16-18 ounce ribeye beef steak or two 8-9 ounce ribeye beef steaks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
shilgochu (Korean red pepper chili threads)

Prepare the marinade. In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, mirin, orange juice, sesame oil, gochugaru, sesame seeds, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, brown sugar, grated pear, garlic, ginger and scallions.

Rinse the steak with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Pour the marinade into a large resealable bag. Add the steak and rub the marinade all over. Squeeze out as much air as possible and then seal the bag. Place the bag in a shallow dish and refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours.

Remove the steak from the bag and pour the marinade into a small saucepan. Use paper towels to dry off the steak and allow the beef to sit out for about 10 minutes until it becomes room temperature.

Place a cast iron skillet on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.

After the cast iron skillet has heated in the oven for 15-20 minutes, carefully remove the skillet and place on a burner over medium-high heat. Add the butter, oil and allow it to melt together before carefully placing the ribeye steak in the skillet. Sear the steak on the first side for 1-2 minutes. Flip the steak and allow to sear for 30 seconds before placing the whole skillet into the oven. Allow the steak to roast in the oven for about another 2-3 minutes for medium rare (depending on the thickness of your steak). Remove the steak from the skillet and place on a plate or cutting board. Cover loosely with foil for about 5-7 minutes to allow the steak time to rest.

While the steak rests, simmer the marinade in the saucepan until it thickens and reduces by half.

To serve, slice the steak. Plate with steamed rice, sautéed bok choy and drizzle the reduced marinade over the top of the beef. Garnish with additional chopped scallions, sesame seeds and shilgochu. Enjoy!

Tacos de Papa {Crispy Potato Tacos}

Tacos de Papa

I have something spectacular for y’all to whip up for your Cinco de Mayo festivities tomorrow….

TACOS DE PAPA!!!!

Oh yes, you know you want it.

Crispy tacos filled with a spiced, cheesy-potato concoction and then topped with all kinds of perfect fixins’!

Tacos de Papa

Did you really expect anything less from this Potato-Monster?

I told you I love potatoes in all forms. And when you have a love for potatoes and an obsession with tacos, things like this are just bound to make its way into my kitchen.

Tacos de Papa

Though truthfully, the first time I tried Tacos de Papa, I wasn’t really a fan. It was a few years ago when I first moved to San Diego. I strolled into one of the nearby taquerias and saw a huge sign touting that they had the BEST Tacos de Papa around.

So of course, I had to order them.

Tacos de Papa

But when I took a bite….I was totally let down.

Essentially, it was just a taco filled with boiled potatoes with no spices. BLEH! How bland could you get? So naturally, I was hesitant to order them again.

Thankfully, I was at a small Mom and Pop spot a year or so later and saw a plateful of heaven being delivered to a table nearby. I was immediately struck by food envy and had to try it out.

Tacos de Papa

This time around, these Tacos de Papa were a whole different story. The filling were a cheesy, mashed potato with Latin spices. Now this was what I had hoped for the first time around.

And since then, I make them all of the time.

Tacos de Papa

They’re actually quite easy to make and can be topped with any of your favorite fixins’. You can even doctor up leftover mashed potatoes for a quick meal. Though, I don’t know about you, but I rarely ever have leftover mashed taters.

For extra credit, I like to fry up my own crispy taco shells. They tend to have a better texture with just a little bit of extra effort. Though, store-bought is just fine as well.

Tacos de Papa

Looking for other menu ideas to go along with Tacos de Papa for your Cinco de Mayo menu? How about:

Turkey and Peppers Tacos
Fish Tacos with Avocado-Slaw
Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema
Roasted Poblano Guacamole
Oven-Roasted Tomato Salsa
Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo
Tortillas de Harina
Blended Mango Margarita
Blood Orange Margarita

Have a Happy Cinco de Mayo!

_______________________________________
Tacos de Papa {Crispy Potato Tacos}
Serves 2

Ingredients:

Avocado-Cabbage Slaw
1 cup ripe avocado, diced
¼ cup Mexican crema or sour cream
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ jalapeno pepper, finely diced and seeded
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ tablespoon agave or honey
kosher salt
pepper
2 cups shredded cabbage

Filling:
kosher salt
1 large Russett potato, washed, peeled, cubed
3-4 whole garlic cloves
1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ cup Mexican crema or sour cream
¼ cup chopped scallions
2 heaping tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
black pepper

Other:
4 crispy taco shells (store bought or homemade)
½ cup diced tomatoes
¼ cup radishes, cut into matchsticks
2 heaping tablespoons Cotija cheese
¼ cup cilantro leaves
lime wedges
hot sauce or salsa of your choice
Prepare the Avocado-Cabbage Slaw. In a blender, puree the avocado, crema, cilantro, jalapeno pepper, lime juice and agave until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with a few spoonfuls of the avocado puree until lightly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Prepare the potato filling by bringing a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Add ½ tablespoon kosher salt, potatoes and garlic cloves. Lower the heat to medium. Boil the potatoes until they are tender—about 20 minutes. Drain the pot and add the cheese, spices, and crema. Using a potato masher, mash the items until they are smooth. Stir in the chopped scallions and cilantro. Season with additional salt and black pepper as needed. Set aside.

If you’re frying your own taco shells, pour vegetable oil into a deep pan until it is about ½ an inch deep. Heat the oil to medium Taking one tortilla at a time, fry on each side. Once it becomes golden, take tongs to fold the tortilla in half and hold it in place until it becomes crispy and takes on the shape of a taco. Fry until golden brown and drain on a plate covered with paper towels. Continue until all the shells have been made.

Assemble the tacos. Take one crispy shell and fill it with a quarter of the potato mash. Top with spoonfuls of the Avocado-Cabbage Slaw. Top with the tomatoes, radishes, cilantro and a sprinkle of the Cotija cheese. Continue until all the tacos have been assembled and serve with lime wedges, pico de gallo, hot sauce, etc.

 

Tortillas de Harina {Flour Tortillas}

Tortillas de Harina {Flour Tortillas}

Because it’s Friday, the sun is shining, and Cinco de Mayo is just a few days away……

it’s Tortillas de Harina time!

Tortillas de Harina {Flour Tortillas}

I’ve always preferred flour tortillas to corn.  And c’mon now, there is just something about fresh tortillas that you just cannot beat. But truthfully, I’ve always been kind of shy to make them as I was never sure as to what type of “fat” yielded the best texture and flavor.

Vegetable oil? Lard? Shortening?

Tortillas de Harina {Flour Tortillas}

So one morning a few months ago, I woke up and channeled my inner abuelita. I played around with several different recipes that varied from AP flour to bread flour to a mixture of both masa and AP. I tried vegetable oil bases,  shortening and even lard.

And in the end….the winner in my book? A combo of AP flour and vegetable shortening—and a recipe courtesy of Chef Rick Bayless, the American chef who is renown for authentic Mexican cuisine.

Tortillas de Harina {Flour Tortillas}

Thankfully, the recipe is quite simple and the resting time is only about 30 minutes.  Once rolled out, the tortilla is cooked on a hot cast iron skillet for less than a minute. Tender, slightly flaky (I’d say due to the shortening)….perfect.

You can also add chopped cilantro, chiles, lime zest, etc. Anything that your heart may desire.

Hands down, my new go-to tortilla recipe. And something you DEFINITELY should make for your upcoming Cinco de Mayo festivities!

___________________________________

Tortillas de Harina {Flour Tortillas}
Makes 12 large tortillas or 24 taco sized tortillas

Ingredients:

2¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for rolling the tortillas
5 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening, or a mixture of the two (I used shortening)
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup very warm tap water

Make the dough. Combine the flour and fat in a large mixing bowl, working in the fat with your fingers, until completely incorporated. Dissolve the salt in the water, pour about 2/3 cup of it over the dry ingredients and immediately work it in with a fork; the dough will be in large clumps rather than a homogeneous mass. If all the dry ingredients haven’t been dampened, add the rest of the liquid (plus a little more, if necessary). Scoop the dough onto your work surface and knead until smooth. It should be medium-stiff consistency — definitely not firm, but not quite as soft as most bread dough either.

Rest the dough. Divide the dough into 12 portions and roll each into a ball. Set them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at least 30 minutes (to make the dough less springy, easier to roll).

Roll and griddle-bake the tortillas. Heat an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium to medium-high heat.On a lightly floured surface, roll out a portion of the dough into an even 7-inch circle: Flatten a ball of dough, flour it, then roll forward and back across it; rotate a sixth of a turn and roll forward and back again; continue rotating and rolling until you reach a 7-inch circle, lightly flouring the tortilla and work surface from time to time.Lay the tortilla on the hot griddle (you should hear a faint sizzle and see an almost immediate bubbling across the surface). After 30 to 45 seconds, when there are browned splotches underneath, flip it over. Bake 30 to 45 seconds more, until the other side is browned; don’t overbake the tortilla or it will become crisp. Remove and wrap in a cloth napkin placed in a tortilla warmer. Roll and griddle-bake the remaining tortillas in the same manner and stacking them one on top of the other.

Recipe from Rick Bayless

Bucatini with Anchovies and Kale

Bucatini with Anchovies and Kale

Earlier this morning, I ran around town knocking out some errands. Nothing out of the usual….stopping by at the dry cleaners, making my bi-daily homage to Target and picking up some groceries.

I came a cross a beautiful bunch of organic Lacinato Kale for only a $1! Smoking Deal!

This particular variety originates from Italy–Tuscany to be specific. Since I couldn’t pass up the bargain, I grabbed a few bunches for the week.

Fresh Kale

As I was finishing my last errand, I had that moment. That brink when you know things may take a quick turn for the worst.

Yeah…I was about to get h’angry.

Hide yo’ kids! Hide yo’ wives!

It’s not a pretty picture ….and I needing something quick to make to save the world from the Namzilla.

IMG_2947

As soon as I got into the kitchen, I quickly got a pot of water boiling and threw in some bucatini. At first glance, bucatini looks like a thick spaghetti noodle. But it actually is hollow inside and has a great texture and “toothiness” because of it.

Bucatini with Anchovies and Kale

While the noodles boiled, I minced up a pile of garlic and chopped up the kale into thin, long strips–a chiffonade. After quickly sauteing the garlic in olive oil, I added a generous amount of red pepper flakes and a huge dollop of anchovy paste.

Bucatini with Anchovies and Kale

Don’t freak out. The anchovy paste does not taste “fishy” at all but adds a rich, salty depth of flavor that you just can’t replicate. And if you don’t have anchovy paste, feel free to use 2-3 anchovy fillets.

Once the oil is infused with the garlic and anchovies, I added the kale and cooked them until they were tender but still had a bite to them.

Bucatini with Anchovies and Kale

Toss in the cooked bucatini, chopped tomatoes, parmesan–and that’s it!!! Super quick, super savory, and totally satisfying. The whole thing took about 15 minutes to whip up and is perfect for a fast weekday meal.

Phew…Crisis Averted.

_____________________________________

Bucatini with Anchovies and Kale
Serves 3

Ingredients:

kosher salt
½ pound dried bucatini pasta (or other long strand pasta of your choice)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more to finish)
1 heaping tablespoon anchovy paste or 2-3 anchovy fillets
½ bunch kale, chiffonade
1 cup diced tomatoes
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (more to finish)
black pepper

Boil the pasta for approximately 7-8 minutes in heavily salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve ¼ cup of the starchy water that the pasta was cooked in.

While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and cook for 1-2 minutes to infuse the oil. Add in the anchovies and stir until it melts into the oil. Toss in the kale and cook for 2 minutes until the leaves have wilted.

Toss in the cooked bucatini, tomatoes and cheese — coating the pasta well. If you want a looser based “sauce”, add a tablespoon at a time of the starchy pasta water until you reach your desired consistency. Season with additional kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Plate the pasta and cover each dish with additional parmesan and red pepper flakes.

Rockin’ Seafood Burgers and Our Backyard Family Antics

Seafood Burgers

April’s Family Dinner was my brother-in-law, Curtis‘, choice as his birthday was just a few days away. And when given the option, Curtis nearly always picks seafood.

We casually brainstormed at the last Family Dinner, throwing out seafood ideas we could potentially make. Initially we were going to tackle some whole fish baked in a sea salt dome but a few weeks ago, I met up for lunch in Newport Beach with some friends at Dory Deli. I had a delicious Ahi Burger and it inspired me to convince the sibs to change our menu.

April 2015 Family Dinner

Since we were all attending my Uncle’s retirement party that Sunday, we had our Family Dinner on a sunny, Saturday afternoon at my seester’s house in Orange County. On days like those, we try to take advantage of the warm weather and enjoy their wonderful backyard.

Lately, I also have been feeling like our lilmunchkins will soon become old munchkins–which has motivated me to take even more pictures of them to try and preserve these moments.

Why do they have to grow up????

Oh, that’s right…we need someone to take care of us during our senile years.

April 2015 Family Dinner

The adults sipped on Lychee-Mint Martinis while we prepped and caught up on life. They’re a light and refreshing martini that can be a bit dangerous because you don’t realize how strong they are until you’ve had a few.

They’re a spin off my Lychee Saketinis but with added herbal notes from the fresh mint that is pureed with the lychees and a heavy hand of fresh lime juice.

Lychee-Mint Martinis

To nosh on, big seester wrapped tender asparagus with slices of salty prosciutto and roasted them in the oven. When she wasn’t looking, I sprinkled finely grated parmesan cheese over the asparagus during the last few minutes while it roasted to add a bit more umami.

I kind of hate myself a little any time I use that phrase but alas…how else can you describe it?

#FirstWorldProblems

Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto

Since we were having burgers, we thought onion rings would also be a nice addition. But then big seester said…

“STEP UP YOUR GAME! Fry up a Blooming Onion instead!”

Okay…she may not have said it that way, but that’s what I heard when she was talking to me.

April 2015 Family Dinner

If Seester wants a Blooming Onion, Seester gets a Blooming Onion. So I took advantage of the outdoor range and got to frying.

But between you and I, I didn’t get as pretty of a “bloom” as I usually do. Partly because I didn’t dredge it enough and partly because I should have used a smaller pot to help the onion stay a little more intact. It still tasted good but looked more like a flattened sunflower instead of a full dahlia.

For the recipe and pics of how it should have looked, meander on over here.

Crispy Blooming Onion

With a little food in our bellies and libations in our veins, we set about on a little bit of shenangians.

Like balloon soccer and some auntie-niece bonding time….

April 2015 Family Dinner

And there may have also been a little bit of backyard dancing that was involved. Because who doesn’t want to shake their booties to a little 90s R&B?

Eventually we turned our focus back on to dinner because the munchkins morph into Gremlins if they aren’t fed at regular intervals.

Mogwais? Freaking Adorable! Gremlins? Terrifying.

April 2015 Family Dinner

Since the main star of our meal were to be burgers, I volunteered to bake the buns. I was well aware of the heavy responsibility I signed up for but let’s face it. You can have a fantastic burger “patty” but if the bread is terrible, you’re a super sad panda.

Luckily, I stumbled upon a fantastic Brioche Bun recipe from Comme Ça. They were perfect and will now be my go-to recipe for burger buns. I’ll be sharing the recipe and my adventure with them soon.

We also snagged a few Squid Ink Rolls from 85c Bakery Cafe which is an incredibly popular Taiwanese bakery pumping out delicious breads and pastries around the clock. The roll itself is a bit shocking at first glance as it’s a deep black color. However, one bite into the soft roll and any negative misconceptions will be forgotten. They’re scrumptious and should not be passed up on if you happen to stop by one of their bakeries.

Brioche Buns

As for the “patties”, we prepared two types of fish.

The first were Chipotle Salmon Patties from How Sweet It Is. Roughly ground salmon with tons of spices, adobo sauce and parsley. The initial recipe called for the patties to be rolled in crushed tortillas chips before pan-frying them but we opted to use panko bread crumbs instead. These patties were served with a chipotle mayo.

The second were thick Ahi Steaks that were lightly marinated and then grilled–still keeping the centers beautifully pink and rare.

Seared Ahi

Our sides for the evening were hand cut, double-fried French Fries that were also fried up in the backyard and my Roasted Corn and Avocado Salad.

And I don’t mind saying that if you haven’t tried my Roasted Corn and Avocado Salad before, you really must add it to your list for summer grilling dishes. It really is a fantastic side for burgers, ribs, grilled chicken—practically everything!!

April 2015 Family Dinner

We gathered a bunch of fixins’ to top the burgers with. Butter lettuce, baby arugula, creamy avocado slices, tomatoes, my pickled red onions, chipotle mayo, my niece’s “crack sauce” and even tobiko — Japanese flying fish roe.

What’s Crack Sauce? It’s my niece, Stephanie’s, concoction that she uses as a base for her Spicy Tuna mixture. I really don’t know what it consists of other than mayo, tons of sriracha, sesame oil, tobiko and whatever else voodoo goodness she throws in it. And honestly, you can schmear it on or dip anything in it.

SO GOOD!

April 2015 Family Dinner

My family suffers from the MustTakePhotosOfFood Affliction.

Have you heard of it?

No?

WebMd it.

April 2015 Family Dinner

Here’s a head shot of the burgers…

Panko Crusted-Chipotle Salmon Burger with baby arugula, avocados, pickled red onions, chipotle mayo on toasted brioche bun.

Seared Ahi Burger with butter lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, tobiko, “crack sauce” on toasted broiche bun.

Seafood Burgers

Of course I didn’t eat both of the burgers!

But I wanted to…………

I went halvsies with my seester.

Seafood Burgers

And finally, dessert. Because a Family Dinner without dessert is straight up blasphemy. Curtis is a huge matcha fan so we decided to try out Nami’s Green Tea Souffle from Just One Cookbook. If you haven’t checked out her site before, you really must as it’s one of my go-to references for Japanese recipes.

As for the soufflés? They were on point—light, fluffy, airy and paired well with a quick chocolate sauce we whipped up. But the only down side with soufflés is that unless you’re a crazy amazing photographer, it’s near impossible to get a good shot of them before they start to fall. You barely have 0.35109 seconds before the gorgeous, raised souffles begin to sink.

At which point, an angel sheds a tear.

Sigh….

The only time I’ve ever have taken a decent soufflé picture is with these Chocolate Souffles with Raspberry Sauce and I’m fairly convinced it was with sheer luck that it happened.

Nonetheless, the Soufflés were delish.

Matcha Souffle

I should mention that at some point between dessert and clean up, we had a full blown 80s dance party-singing session in the kitchen.

We sounded amazing. Our moves were jaw-dropping. The kids were mortified.

Alas, bellies stuffed, hearts filled…..another Family Dinner to be proud of.

Until next month!

11162505_10155465729365481_2197355305506072235_n