Sunday Family Dinner

An Endless Fam Din Feast for the Tauruses

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It was one of my favorite times of the year — my BIRTH MONTH!!!

Birth “month” you ask? Oh yes, I celebrate the entire month.

Actually our family is full of May babies….Mom, Dad, SIL and cousie –all Tauruses, which makes a lot of sense. We’re all a tad–how would you put it? Oh right–stubborn.

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But when it came time for L and my Fam Din— I WAS PUMPED!

What to have on the menu?

Lobster? Prime Rib? King Crab? French Fry Fest?

YES PLEASE!

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Sooooo many options. Maybe TOO many good ones to choose from.

In fact, the week before dinner, we still hadn’t had a full menu planned other than knowing who would be in charge of which portions of the meal.

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Then mid-week, it hit me-it was soft shell crab season! And I do love me some soft shell crab sammies! With new found inspiration, I volunteered to take on the main dish and its fixings!

But as for the other dishes–everything was still up in the air.

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We all convened with our mystery ingredients to T and R’s casa and got down to prep.

But first–some cocktails!

I whipped up a few pitchers of Sparkling Rosé Sangria and let me tell ya, it’s like summer in a glass.

Fresh fruit, ginger, mint, cognac, light rosé, bubbly….now that’s a party!

Sparkling Rosé Sangria
Quick pic with the sibbies!!

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And a little photobomber in the shape of Leonidas.

That little rascal….

I love that mischievous face.

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And then it was time to get back in the kitchen for some more prep.

May 2017 Fam Din
Thank goodness for R and Nini–our shuckers for the night.

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Because without those two, we’d just be staring at these beauties saying “Alohomora” over and over again.

Why yes–that was a little shot out to my fellow Potterheads.

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Now let the feasting begin!

V and L had been visiting our friends in Ventura that morning and picked up some Fresh Oysters for us to nosh on.

L made a classic mignonette for us to enjoy the oysters with and there was also lots of fresh lemon and tabasco on hand too.

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HELLLOOOOOO Gorgeous!!!!

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As you can tell, Nina didn’t like them at all.

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They also picked up some fresh uni and L got to work cracking them open.

Seriously, my mouth is watering just looking at the picture of it.

May 2017 Fam Din
And what did we do with them? Nini and L made adorable little bites of Uni Gunkan Maki.

Perfect morsels that just screamed of the sea.

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I could have easily polished off a dozen of them.

ps. Gunkan Maki are “warship sushi” or “battleship sushi” and are named such because of its shape. See? I can drop some random knowledge from time to time.

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N demolishes battleships on the reg.

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Since we were going the distance, V & L also picked up some local Yellowtail while in Ventura and there’s no better way to enjoy it than as straight up Yellowtail Sashimi.

It’s how we roll.

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Now most folks would just make 1 or 2 appetizers for dinner. But with my o’hana, why just have 1 when we could have 5?

Seriously, five. We had FIVE appetizers for Fam Din.

We’re uncontrollable.

To wrap up our apps course, T made clams two ways. (Are you sensing that gluttony theme?)

May 2017 Fam Din

The first version featured clams stuffed with miso butter, cheese, aromatics and panko bread crumbs. Quite addicting and hopefully will be at our football parties this fall.

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The second preparation were roasted clams with miso butter, rice wine, ginger, beech mushrooms, scallions and some other magical goodies.

And OH. MY. GOD.

These were so freaking good!! So savory, so rich in flavor—FULL of umami (I feel like such an idiot every time I use that word)! The clams were wonderful on its own but would also be perfect as a main dish with soba noodles or even with just crusty baguette.

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Look at my fam…..they’re cute.

I guess I’ll keep them.

I should probably admit that they look so happy because we had just spent an hour gorging on apps and cocktails (for the 21+ over).

But hey, whatever it takes.

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After polishing off all the apps, we were pretty stuffed. And we still had our main course left, too!

In order to make it to the finish line, we needed a breather.

Maya took a T.O. on Lamby.

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Leonidas got a massage.

Life is rough for the munchkins, isn’t it?

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And we snapped pics.

Because apparently, we don’t take enough pictures.

NOT!

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After a quick pause, I turned my attention to these little guys–the soft shell crabs. Since the crabs have molted their exoskeletons, the entire crustacean can be eaten after a bit of light cleaning.

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Sometimes you jut have to infuse your food with love……you feel me?

It makes everything that much tastier.

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After they were cleaned and drained, we lightly dredged them in a mixture of flour and corn meal.

And not to sound twisted, but doesn’t it look like they’re just chilling in the sand?

No? Too much?

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After they were dredged, Nini helped me pan fry them in butter and olive oil until they were golden brown and crispy.

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Once out of the pan, they all got a sprinkle Old Bay and sea salt.

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The crispy soft shell crabs were destined to rest inside these little Brioche Buns I had baked earlier. Nina lightly buttered and toasted the buns for that extra punch of goodness.

Aren’t they adorable? The girls said they reminded them of Krabby Patties from SpongeBob—which, now that I think of it, is kind of appropriate.

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To serve with sandwiches, I decided to make homemade Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt Chips. I know, it seems like a lot of work when you can just go out and buy a bag of chips.

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But honestly, homemade chips are SOOO much better! It does take a bit of time but they’re really easy to make. Just be sure to fry up some extra because if your family is anything like mine, they will be gone before it’s time to eat.

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Assembly time!

A light schmear of Old Bay aioli on the buns, add thin slices of ripe tomato, a leaf of butter lettuce and top it off with a beautiful soft shell crab.

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So nice I had to show it twice!

Seriously–as good as I had hoped for when they came to mind just a few days prior. I love it when that happens.

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And Food Coma starts in 5…4…3…2…..

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But wait! We still have dessert!!

And not just any dessert but B I R T H D A Y  cake!

N was in charge of our birthday dessert and all I said is that I wanted a dense chocolate cake that tasted like a Ferrero Rocher — one of my favorite candies.

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And HOLY CRAP!  SHE DELIVERED!!!

Just like a Ferrero Rocher!!!

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The cake was super dense and rich–like a flourless cake that had ground hazelnuts in the batter. She topped it with a chocolate mousse and a “crunch” made from melted chocolate and rice cereal. It was then finished with more hazelnuts and a generous drizzle of more chocolate.

From taste to texture it totally was a Ferrero Rocher!

I’m not kidding y’all–it’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. She’s going to have to make me this cake every year now.

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And as if we didn’t have enough sugar, R broke out the fire so the munchkins could roast some marshmallows.

Why not, right? If not for the added sugar than at least for the experience.

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I can’t help but hope that when they look back 20 years from now, they’ll think fondly of our monthly Fam Dins and the randomness that often occur.

For example, the fireworks that we set off shortly after I took this picture.

And no, I’m not kidding.

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And that’s a wrap on our decadent Fam Din for L and my bday!

Not bad considering we threw the menu together at the last minute. And yes, it was a delicious as it looks.

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Sparkling Rosé Sangria, Various Wine
Appetizers: Fresh Oysters with Mignonette, Yellowtail Sashimi, Uni Gunkan Maki, Miso Roasted Clams with Beech Mushrooms, Panko-Miso Butter Clams
Entrees: Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches with Old Bay Aioli, on Brioche Rolls with Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt Chips
Dessert: Chocolate-Hazelnut “Ferrero Rocher” Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

All about that Bulaon-baisse, ’bout that baisse…

April 2017 Family Dinner
When it comes to Lucasauraus and C’s birthday, we always know that there will be some combination of seafood, matcha and mint chip ice cream on the menu for Fam Din. And no–not all mixed together, Silly!

And who can blame them–I love all of it too!

April 2017 Family Dinner

We gathered at T and R’s place in Fullerton on a sunny afternoon to get down on some cookin’ and grubbin’!

And there may have been a cocktail or two before we switched over to wine. This month we went back for the Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic with Cucumber and Lime. C’mon, it’s a classic–not to mention totally refreshing on a warm Southern Cali afternoon.

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And how So Cal is it that somehow succulents were involved?

Yea, I have no idea what N was doing with these.

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Now let’s get back to the food, shall we?

Since our entree was slated to be on the lighter side—well….”lighter” than our normal fare, we had three different appetizers to sate our tummies.

First up, Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon that brother fixed up using Eric Ripert’s recipe. I am a sucker for a good deviled egg and these were no exception. They featured the classic rich flavors and was topped with the smoky, salty salmon.

Awesome.

They’d be perfect for brunch too!

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And since Lucas is a salmon-eating-monster (has been since he was barely 2) we needed MORE of the fatty fish–LOTS MORE! So we put the nieces to work and they got rolling on these beautiful Salmon Temaki.  They were filled with seasoned rice, avocados, luscious slices of salmon, daikon sprouts and of course, that magnificent “crack sauce” that Nini makes.

That sauce is seriously E V E R Y T H I N G! It’s a mixture of mayo, sambal, sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, chives, tobiko and I’d venture to say–a splash of her soul. It is THAT good.

I inhaled about 20 dozen of them. Screw that summer bikini diet.

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A birthday Fam Din for Lucas and C without sashimi?? Not on our watch!

In fact, there may have been 1 or 2 plates of Hamachi Sashimi.

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It does this foodblogger’s heart proud when she sees the munchkins doing this…..

Shall we move on to main course?

When we asked C what he wanted for dinner, he replied “seafood stew—bouillabaisse”. Ok then, we’re on it!

Well actually, seestrah T was on it—and hence the “Bulaon-baisse“. What’s a “Bulaon-baisse” you may be asking? It’s when T is in charge of the bouillabaisse, has a few glasses of vino while making the stock and merges her married name (Bulaon) to the classic Provençal stew.

What a dork.

But a funny dork.

All joking aside, T put some serious time and love into creating the broth of the bouillabaisse. She simmered the excess fish trimmings with aromatics such as bay leaves, orange peels, and a bouquet garni to produce a rich seafood stock. In a separate pan, she sweated the fennel, onions, and garlic and then reduced it with wine before adding in the stock, tomatoes and saffron. After what seemed like a gajillion years, the stock was strained and we were left with a flavorful and clear broth.

That broth was brought to a boil, and the fish, shrimp, and mussels were cooked in it.

Speaking of fish, my B.I.L., aka Mr. Bulaon, caught the below red snapper and cod that we used in the bouillabaisse. Isn’t he handy?

So all in all, I guess it was a Bulaon-baisse!

H E L L O    G O R G E O U S!!!

April 2017 Family Dinner
And finally – DESSERT TIME!

C loves him some matcha. I can’t remember the last time we made him a birthday dessert that green tea wasn’t involved. And I tell ya–I’m quickly running out of ideas people!

As I scoured the internet for some inspiration, I stumbled upon a Coconut-Matcha Cream Pie and decided to give it a try.

My thoughts?

I was a bit disappointed by how much the crust “shrunk” after it was baked. I let it thoroughly rest before rolling it out and even froze it for an hour before baking. I blind baked the crust and the temp wasn’t too high either. Eh…that’s how it goes with baking sometimes.

As for the filling, it was rich and had the texture of a firm pudding. The coconut flavor was very subtle and it wasn’t too sweet. I’m glad I opted to add matcha to the whipped cream to amp up the flavor.

Overall, not bad but not great.

April 2017 Family Dinner
As for my mint-chip loving nephew, a Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie seemed perfect for Lucas. The base what made out of crushed Oreo cookies and crushed Thin Mint Cookies. I then added a layer of softened mint chip ice cream (it HAD to be the green kind too!), a drizzle of chocolate sauce, a layer of more crushed cookies and a final layer of ice cream. The whole thing was put in the freezer for a few hours before topping it with whipped cream and more cookies.

I am embarrassed to say that the below picture looks rather a hot mess. We had some melting issues on the drive from Tustin to Fullerton and we attempted to mask it over with more whipped cream. But all looks aside, it was delicious and the bday boy approved!

April 2017 Family Dinner
Another scrumptious Fam Din in the books!

H A P P Y     B I R T H D A Y    L U C A S    A N D     C!!!!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Hamachi Sashimi, Salmon Temaki, Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
Entrees: Bouillabaisse with Toasted Garlic Crostini
Dessert: Coconut Matcha-Cream Pie, Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie

Sunday Family Dinner

It Ain’t Easy Being A Green Fam Din

March 2017 Family Dinner
Alright, so I’ll be the first to admit that some of our Fam Din themes are a bit more successful than others. When we’re on point, we totally nail it like with our Hawaiian Lu’au, “One Night In Bangkok”, Korean Feast, or the N’awlins Seafood Boil.

But some themes are bit tougher than others. Case and point, a certain holiday a few months ago that inspired us to try and make dishes that were green.

That’s right, the color green.

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First up–appetizers!

V+L were in charge of this portion and came up with wonderfully fresh and sweet Scallops Carpaccio.

Lovely, right?

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And before you ask for the green, might I direct your attention to the chopped cilantro and green platter???

Totally green.

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A year or two ago, T got N a Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Block from Williams Sonoma. She hadn’t had the opportunity to use it yet and figured Fam Din was the perfect chance. So she pulled out the slab and seared some sweet scallops on them.

I think we had average results with it. Yes, it did impart a subtle flavor to the scallops and sure–the process looked impressive. But we didn’t get that lovely golden sear on them as if we had used a pan.

Don’t worry, we’ll try again.

March 2017 Family Dinner
N placed the scallops over fresh and peppery arugula. She dressed it with grape tomatoes, fresh basil and a light vinaigrette. Light, lovely and would be a wonderful summer lunch with some crusty bread.

But being the chunky monkeys we are, we had them as an appetizer.

March 2017 Family Dinner
As for our entree, T chose to slow-braise pork in a rich and luscious chile verde sauce—key word, “verde“.

As in green, folks!

The pork was tender, savory and quite versatile! The chilies are not the least bit spicy but more so mild and brought a verdant, tangy flavor.

March 2017 Family Dinner
To serve alongside the pork, I whipped up some homemade Cilantro-Flour Tortillas. The recipe is from Rick Bayless and I wrote about them here. At the very end when I rolled out each tortilla de harina, I sprinkled on some chopped cilantro before throwing them on a cast iron skillet.

Tender, flaky and perfect with the pork.

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In addition, I made a big batch of my Cilantro-Lime Rice because carbs are my friends.

March 2017 Family Dinner

Last but not least—DESSERT!

Now, when thinking of green desserts, my mind kept drifting towards matcha. But since BIL’s birthday was the following month, I was bound to have to make a green tea dessert in a few weeks. So I mulled around and decided to rely on the bright green hues of the kiwi to make this Kiwi Fruit Pie.

The shell was a shortbread crust and I filled it with Cook’s Illustrated pastry cream. Next came lots of slices of fresh kiwi fruit.

Easy peasy right?

March 2017 Family Dinner

Now let me share one thing before I close this post.

Silly things happen at our Family Dinners. In truth, it’s one of my favorite things about the whole tradition. And this month, was no exception.

After dessert, the kids started doing arts and crafts for Nini’s elections—and there was a bottle of glue on the table. T, V and I started reminiscing of when we were kids and made “glue skins” from our hands.

And then this happened.

March 2017 Family Dinner

Oh yes….as we laughed, drank wine (the 21+ and over of us–that is), and sang along to Erasure–we painted layers of glue on our hands. Then, once dried, we slowly peeled them off to make “glue skin”.

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Silly, I know. But I wouldn’t change anything.

It’s what our Family Dinner is all about. ❤

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Appetizers: Scallop Carpaccio, Scallops Seared on Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Block over Arugula
Entrees: Slow Braised Pork Chile Verde
Sides: Cilantro-Lime Rice, Cilantro Flour Tortillas
Dessert: Kiwi Fruit Pie

Breads

Mini Sourdough Bread Boules

Sourdough Bread Boules
Being the carb monster I am, it’s really no surprise that I’ve come to love baking bread–granted, it wasn’t always the case.

But now I find that there’s something about forming something so beautiful and delicious out of a few spare ingredients that most folks have in their cupboards. There’s something ritualistic about the process–and although time consuming, it is completely fulfilling.  Not to mention that we’ve been baking some type of bread, across the world/cultures for thousands and thousands of years.

Sourdough Bread Boules

Sure, some breads can be finicky and depending on the weather and moisture outside, you’ve got to adjust. But when you’ve kneaded that perfectly silky dough, it’s fantastic!

So for Maya’s birthday Fam Din where we served a delicious Clam Chowder that brother made, I quickly volunteered to bake the sourdough bread boules to go along with them. I had never officially baked my own sourdough, although it’s been on my to-do list for some time, but hey-it seemed like a great opportunity.

Sourdough Bread Boules

First off, I needed a “starter” that gives the bread that wonderful chew and flavor. Now, I’m not one of those lucky home bakers that have a starter stored in my fridge that has been handed down in my family for the past century. So I had to create my own.

It’s a fairly easy process that essentially involves “growing” a wild yeast over several days through a combination of water and flour. Every day, you “feed” your starter a little bit more of both as it bubbles away. At one point, you may begin to freak out as it starts to separate–and you may think–CRAP! It’s gone bad!

But don’t fret my pet. All is good–in fact, you want that to happen because that’s when you’ll know that you’ve got a fermentation party going on. Just stir it all up and keep on going with the process.

Sourdough Bread

For this particular batch, I chose to make a starter based on a recipe found here. The only exception is that I grew my starter for about 8 days versus the 5 listed in the instructions.

But hey–if you’ve got your own starter recipe, or even better–have some already chilling in your fridge, by all means…go with that.

Sourdough Bread
After you’ve introduced your finished starter with a bit of flour to create a “levain”, you’ll want to let it mingle together overnight before adding the final flours to proof. And boy oh boy, will it proof! All through the wonders of your starter and with no additional help of dried yeast.

Magic!

This recipe from Half Baked Harvest produced 6 good-sized boules out of the dough. However, I ended up forming them a little smaller to make 8 per batch. Since we were going to have lots of appetizers before dinner and intended to use them as chowder “vessels”, this smaller sized suited us well.

Sourdough Bread Boule
Prior to baking these little guys got brushed with an egg white wash and were quickly spritzed with water. These two additional steps gave them a beautiful golden sheen and helped to create the wonderful crisp exterior texture.

PERFECT sourdough characteristics!

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As for the crumb, I wish I would have taken a pic of the interior– it was spongy with great bubble pockets. The flavor was subtly sour—in fact, I would have preferred a bit more. But it was still slightly tangy. I think next time, I’ll give Tartine’s recipe a try now that I’ve gotten my feet wet.

February 2017 Family Dinner

But overall, I definitely recommend it! The method below is quite easy to follow–even for those new to bread baking.

Happy Sourdoughing!

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Mini Sourdough Bread Boules
Makes 6-8 mini boules

Ingredients:

1 cup fed sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups bread flour
1 tbsp water optional
1 tbsp egg white lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
water

 

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the starter, water, and all-purpose flour. Mix together with a fork or wooden spoon until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours.

Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill overnight, at least 12 hours.

Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and add the sugar, salt, and bread flour to the sponge. Mix until a ball of dough begins to come together. If some of the dry ingredients will not incorporate into the dough, add the additional 1 tablespoon of water to moisten them. Continue kneading the dough (on low speed if using an electric mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a large lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough once to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, 3-4 hours.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Transfer the dough ball to a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough. Divide the dough into eight equal portions. Form each piece of dough into a ball, and tuck any loose edges or seams underneath. Place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat shaping with the other 7 pieces of the dough. Transfer the shaped boules to the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in volume, about 2-3 hours.

Place a baking stone or large dutch oven in the oven and preheat the oven to 425? F. Allow the pot to preheat for at least 20 minutes. Just before baking, lightly slash the top of each boule using a sharp serrated knife. Brush the exposed surface of the loaves with the egg wash. Spray the loaves lightly with water. Slide the entire baking sheet onto the baking stone or carefully place 4 boules in the dutch oven with the top on. Bake about 28-32 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the crust is golden brown. If baking with the dutch oven repeat once the first four have been baked. Transfer the finished boules to a wire rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Recipe From: Half Baked Harvest

Drinks

Sparkling Rosé Sangria – Happy National Rosé Day!

Sparkling Rosé Sangria

With all the craziness going on right now, aren’t you happy to know that at least we have random holidays we can celebrate and temporarily take our minds off of the insanity?

Brilliant holidays like the one today. And “what’s today” you may be asking?

Oh silly Friend….

It’s National Rosé Day—-as in, Rosé Wine!

And no, I didn’t make it up–though it does sound like something I would do.

Sparkling Rosé Sangria

To honor this illustrious day, I’d like to share with you my Sparkling Rosé Sangria. It’s filled with fresh fruit, rosé wine, cognac, orange liqueur and is topped off with chilled sparkling wine right before serving.

And my special addition? Fresh ginger root! The ginger is steeped in the sangria for a few hours which imparts a subtle but bright flavor. The whole combination is like drinking summer in a glass!

Totes Pretty in Pink

CHEERS Friends – and HAPPY NATIONAL ROSÉ DAY!

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Sparkling Rosé Sangria
Serves as many as you’re willing to share with

2 inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled
12 cup simple syrup
14 cup fresh lime juice
13 cup cognac
13 cup Cointreau or other orange liqueur
2 cups sliced fresh peaches
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
4 sprigs fresh mint, more to garnish
2 750mL bottles rosé wine
ice
1 750mL bottle chilled sparkling wine

With the back of a large chef’s knife (or mallet), carefully bruise the ginger to help release some of its juices–but be sure not to break it into smaller pieces.

In a large pitcher, add the bruised ginger, simple syrup, lime juice, cognac, Cointreau, fruit and mint sprigs. Pour in the rosé wine and stir. Cover the pitcher and refrigerate for 4-5 hours. Once chilled, remove and discard the ginger and wilted mint sprigs.

Fill glasses with ice and add the sangria. Pour 2-3 ounces of chilled sparkling wine in each glass and gently stir the contents. Garnish with additional mint leaves and serve.

CHEERS!

Sunday Family Dinner

These are a few of Maya’s Favorite Things – Fam Din Time!

February 2017 Family Dinner

Our little Maya was born with an old soul. At barely a few days her little eyes began to sparkle and have the ability to look right in and grab your heart.

And as the years have passed, she’s grown into a a wonderfully thoughtful, kind, sensitive, smart and silly young gal.

February 2017 Family Dinner

So when it came time for her birthday Fam Din, we definitely wanted to make sure we made dishes that our “little” girl (who is now taller than me!) would love.

February 2017 Family Dinner

But although it was Maya’s birthday, the adults needed a little fun too….in the form of Hendrick’s Gin and Tonics with cucumbers and limes.

COCKTAIL TIME!

I love a good gin and tonic and Hendrick’s is definitely one of my favs.

February 2017 Family Dinner

CHEERS Sibbies!!!

February 2017 Family Dinner

All of our kiddos have had impeccably refined palates at a young age—and Maya is no exception. So when it came time to develop her dinner menu, I knew it was going to be a good one.

First up–appetizers!

Bebe girl loves a good Antipasta platter, so seester T put together this beauty for us to nosh on while we prepped dinner. Marinated artichokes, olives, salami, stilton and burrata cheeses, peppers, wheat crackers and cheese straws.

You really can’t go wrong with Antipasti. There’s no cooking involved and it’s all about assembling items from the market–perfect, particularly when entertaining.

February 2017 Family Dinner

Maya’s second appetizer for the evening was Crispy Calamari with Homemade Marinara. These goodies were lightly coated and fried to a great crunchy texture. Super tender and addicting.

February 2017 Family Dinner

SPOTTED!

Food blogger caught in her natural environment!

February 2017 Family Dinner

Funny enough, Maya loves salad—has so since she was a little babe.

And she also loves bacon.

Told ya she was smart.

To kick up her usual Caesar Salad fav, I made Maya this Shrimp and Bacon Caesar Salad. After crisping up the bacon in a cast iron, I used the rendered bacon fat to toast up some bread cubes for some over-the-top croutons and to saute the shrimp in.

Oh yes, I went there.

I then tossed romaine lettuce in a quick dressing I made with garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, egg yolk, grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Once the greens were lightly coated, I piled the shrimp, bacon, croutons on top and finished it off with large shavings of Parmesan.

Hey, I said I made a salad. I didn’t say it was low calorie.

February 2017 Family Dinner
Here’s Nina checking in on things.

And yes, she’s standing on a step stool because seester’s range was built for giants.

February 2017 Family Dinner

One thing that Maya specifically asked for to have at her dinner was clam chowder and she loves it served in a bread bowl. Brother volunteered to take charge of the chowder and since I love baking bread, I signed up to bake our bread bowls.

I ended up making my own sourdough starter several days prior to our dinner and I’ve got to admit, it was a rather fun process.

And the end result?

Beautifully golden boules that had the signature crispy crust and tender interior. The flavor was mildly sour–a little less so than my preference, but delish nonetheless.

It was the perfect vehicle for the rich and dreamy clam chowder my brother made. Oh-and I’ll be sharing a full post on the bread boules shortly.

February 2017 Family Dinner

Take a look at this beauty!!!

Brother knocked it out of the park with his chowda’!  The texture was perfect–not too thin and not too thick. And it was PACKED with clam flavor! He first took a ton of fresh clams and steamed them to release their liqueur. He then added the clam juice back into the base of the soup with tons of aromatics, white wine, potatoes, cream–and then topped it all off with whole clams, crispy bacon and fresh thyme.

Seriously, he did good.

February 2017 Family Dinner

And finally–Birthday Cake Time!!

Maya couldn’t decide on what type of dessert she wanted seestrah N to make her. So seester took flavor inspiration from one of the bday girl’s favorite sweet treats — the Strawberry and Pastry Cream filled Croissants from Cream Pan in Tustin, California. Which, PSA, if you haven’t been before and are within a 30 mile range, GOOOOO!

February 2017 Family Dinner

I have to say that I think my fam can whip up some fantastic desserts. However, N has been known to mash a billion different recipes together and come up with things off the fly that are freaking delicious. She’d be awesome at a Chopped dessert challenge!

What did she end up creating for Maya?

This gorgeous Strawberry Cream Cheese Mousse Cake. I mean c’mon—WOWZA! N started with making a graham cracker crust and then created a “wall” on the interior of a spring form pan with wafer cookies. Next, she created a rich cream cheese mousse and assembled the cake alternating between the mousse, crushed graham crackers and strawberry slices. It was all finished off with a lovely flower arrangement of strawberry slices.

The cake was somehow light and decadent all at the same time–with wonderfully contrasting textures between the mousse and wafers. Needless to say, the birthday girl LOVED it! And we all did too!

February 2017 Family Dinner

And that was it! Pretty successful–don’t you think?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Bebe Girl! We hope you enjoyed your dinner and we LOVE you to pieces!! ❤

February 2017 Family Dinner

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Crispy Calamari with Homemade Marinara, Antipasta Platter
Entrees: New England Clam Chowder in Homemade Sourdough Bread Bowls
Sides: Shrimp and Bacon Caesar Salad
Dessert: Strawberry Cream Cheese Mousse Cake

Seafood · Soups/Stews

Our Seafood Cioppino – Happy Birthday Mom!!!

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Today is our Mama’s birthday and although it’s been 10 years since she’s been with us, not a day goes by when we don’t miss or think of her.

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That fiery spirit that her daughters and granddaughters inherited……

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That deep sense of family, love and loyalty……

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The affinity to talk to strangers and win them over in minutes….

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That strong “will” (yes…I was trying not to say stubborn)…..

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And that love to cook and explore new cuisines.

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Of course there are dishes that I cannot help but miss her dearly when I make them. Like Thịt Kho Trứng (Vietnamese Caramelized Pork and Eggs), Thịt Bò Xào (Stir-fried beef), Mì Quảng (Turmeric Noodles) or even Korean Chap Chae —all dishes I used to ask her to make for me.

But then there are dishes like Seafood Cioppino, that although wasn’t her own, has now become a staple among my siblings every time we want to celebrate Mom.

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At least a dozen years ago when I lived in San Jose, Mom came to visit me and sister P who lived in San Francisco. We spent the time walking around the city, shopping, and eating everything possible. And one night for dinner, P and I decided to make her a decadent, quintessential San Franciscan dish–Seafood Cioppino.

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Cioppino is a seafood stew that originated in the Italian American communities of SF. It layers tons of aromatics with wine and tomatoes to make a fragrant stock. A variety of seafood is then cooked in the stock –which then deepens in flavor from the juices of the shellfish and seafood.

It’s incredible and we knew Mom would love it.

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While P and I spent hours in the kitchen that late afternoon charring the peppers, sauteing the veggies, simmering the stock, and cleaning all the seafood we had scored on Clement Street, Mom sat at the table watching us. She kept asking what we were doing—-and then, what we were going to next. Then she would say that we were going to a lot of trouble just for one dish.

But honestly, I think of everything we did during that visit, she loved that day the most. Chatting with her daughters while they cooked and fussed over her.

Of course, she loved the Seafood Cioppino too!

And can we just say how fabulous Mama was sitting in her satin pajamas, wearing her black Tahitian pearls while digging into a big ol’ bowl of Seafood Cioppino??

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Shortly after Mom passed, I made a photobook for my family that included old pictures and our favorite recipes from her. And soon after, that one dish P and I made that one SF visit became “Mom’s Cioppino”—something that is lovingly made many times a year since.

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I’ve posted tons of pics on Instagram and Facebook of our Seafood Cioppino and often get requests for the recipe. Whether it was too personal or maybe it was still too “soon”–I just wasn’t willing to share it yet.

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After all of the years, it doesn’t get “easier” and I still miss her so much. But these days, I am able to share more things about her and now it’s rather perfect to share with you all this dish on her birthday.

Yes, there are many steps with the Cioppino and it does take some time —but the good news is, nothing is really difficult. And it’s the perfect dish to share with your loved ones when you can spend the day together in the kitchen making memories.

I hope you love it as much as we do.

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We love you Mama and Happy, Happy Birthday!

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Seafood Cioppino

Serves 8

Ingredients:
Stock
2 red bell peppers
½ red jalapeno pepper
5 Roma tomatoes, halved
olive oil
1 medium sized white onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 750mL bottle white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or mild White Blend
5 standard tomatoes (Mexican or Florida tomato), coarsely chopped
1 8oz bottle clam juice
½ cup tomato juice
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
sea salt
20 sprigs fresh thyme
6 springs fresh parsley
8 sprigs fresh tarragon
½ teaspoon saffron threads

Seafood (or a medley of your favorites)
2 dungeness crabs, washed and quartered
2 lobster tails, quartered
2 pounds mussels, debeared and scrubbed
2 pounds manila clams, scrubbed
1 pound firm white fish, such as halibut or mahi, cut into 1½ inch cubes
1 pound shrimp, deveined and shell intact
1 pound sea scallops, if they are large—cut them in half
½ pound calamari, cut into 1-inch rings

Garnish
chopped fennel fronds and parsley

Turn your oven broiler on. Place bell peppers, jalapenos and Roma tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Broil the vegetables for 5-7 minutes, using tongs to rotate frequently until the peppers have charred and the skin has bubbled. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and cover securely with plastic wrap. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the vegetables to steam.

Peel the skins off the peppers and discard along with the stems and seeds. Next, peel and discard the skins of the Roma tomatoes.

Place a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat on the stove. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and allow the oil to begin to slightly shimmer. Add the onions, celery and fennel inside the pot and cook until they have softened and become translucent—you do not want them to brown. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and cook for an additional minute until fragrant. Pour in the wine and allow the liquids to come to a boil. Add the roasted peppers, Roma tomatoes, chopped fresh tomatoes, clam juice and tomato juice. Add the thyme, parley, tarragon, bay leaf, ½ tablespoon sea salt and peppercorns. Allow the liquids to come a rolling boil, lower heat and simmer, partially covered for 1½-2 hours. The liquids will nearly have reduced by half.

Pass the stock to a fine strainer and discard the vegetables and aromatics. Pour the stock into a large clean pot, add the saffron threads and lower the heat to a simmer for several minutes to allow the saffron to bloom and flavor the stock. Taste the broth and add additional sea salt as needed. Bring the stock back to a boil and add in the crab and lobster—cover and cook until the shells have become pink and the flesh becomes almost fully opaque. Stir in the clams, mussels and cover the pot. Allow them to cook for about 2 minutes until they just begin to open. Gently stir in the shrimp, fish, calamari and allow them to cook over a simmering heat—avoid cooking the fish in a rapid boil as they will get tough. Once the last seafood items turn opaque, taste the broth again and adjust with additional sea salt and pepper as needed.

Ladle the seafood into a bowl and pour the hot broth over it. Sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds, chopped parsley and serve immediately with warm bread.

Enjoy!

Note: This stock can definitely be made ahead of time so double or triple the batch and keep some in your freezer for a chilly night!