Seafood

Tomato-Fennel Mussels

Mussels

Tomato-Fennel Mussels.

Let me tell you, Folks. This is the kind of dish that I want to enjoy a big ol’ bowl of while sitting on my balcony …. watching the ocean waves roll onto the sand with the sun just barely setting. Oh–and of course with a fantastic chilled glass of Sancerre in hand.

Perfection, right?

September 2017 Fam Din

Only problem is–although the beach is just a short bit away, there are a bunch of pesky buildings and homes blocking my view. How inconsiderate of them, right?

Oh….and I also don’t have a balcony.

So instead, I’ll just sit on the living floor while diving into this scrumptious bowl of mussels and watch whichever show I’m binge-watching on Netflix at the moment.

Pretty much the same right? Just splitting hairs, really.

September 2017 Fam Din
I love making mussels. They’re super easy and quick to whip up for guests or if you’re dining solo. And as far as seafood goes, they’re a great bang for your buck!

I usually make Spicy Mussels in White Wine or Belgian Beer Mussels with Frites as they’re both so low maintenance but these Tomato-Fennel Mussels really do bring such a different profile. Just as easy but the addition of the fennel, crushed tomatoes and clam juice create a rich and an intensively flavorful sauce–particularly when the liquor of the mussels join the party. They smell divine while bubbling away and are perfection when you serve it with toasted baguette or ciabatta to soak up all that goodness. In fact, the sauce is thick enough (but not too thick) that it can be served over linguine or other long stranded pasta.

Whatever the setting you end up having these mussels at, you’re going to love them!

ps. And if you’re anything like my Seestrah, add a few threads of saffron when you pour in the tomatoes. She’s fancy like that! ❤

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Tomato-Fennel Mussels
Serves approximately 4-6

Ingredients:

1 small fennel bulb with fronds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup diced white onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
4-5 fresh thyme sprigs
2 dried bay leaves
5 pounds black mussels, scrubbed and debearded
kosher salt
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Cut the fennel bulb from the stalk, reserving the fronds. Dice the bulb and roughly chop the fronds. Set aside separately.

Heat a large, heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, butter and swirl around the pot. Once the oil begins shimmering and the butter has melted, add in the onions and chopped fennel bulb. Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened but not browned. 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. Keep stirring until the wine nearly evaporates.

Pour in the clam juice and can of crushed tomatoes with its juices. Stir in the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Partially cover the pot and allow everything to come to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the ingredients for 10-15 minutes stirring once or twice during that time.

Uncover the pot and turn up the heat to medium. Once the items starting bubbling, add in the mussels. Stir a few times so that they become coated in the tomato sauce and place the lid back on the pot. Allow the mussels to steam for 5-7 minutes until they have all opened.

Remove the lid, stir the mussels around a few times and taste the sauce. Add additional salt as necessary. Discard of the thyme stems and bay leaves. Fold in the fresh parsley and half of the chopped fennel fronds. Transfer the mussels and the sauce into a large serving dish. Garnish with the remaining fennel fronds and serve with warm bread.

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Appetizers/Small Plates · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart

September 2017 Fam Din
An heirloom tomato dish when we’re just days away from November?

I know, but work with me people…..this crazy heatwave has got all of us in California out of sorts. Monday it was 97 degrees, Tuesday it was 99 degrees and today is 92 degrees —and I live on the coast!

Mother Nature is not happy. So in the meantime, you’ll get some summer inspired recipes from me.

September 2017 Fam Din
I made this beauty for last month’s family dinner as an appetizer but it could easily serve as a main course with a nice side salad. Perhaps a peppery arugula salad? And of course, a cold and crisp glass of white wine to go along is a must.

This stunning tart is quite easy to whip together. All you need is a few ripe heirloom tomatoes, store bought puff pastry, ricotta cheese, some basil pesto and just a couple of other kitchen staples. I used some pesto I had made a few days prior, but if you prefer, store bought is fine too. Just be sure to adjust for salt as needed.

September 2017 Fam Din
One thing to note is that since you’ll be baking the tomatoes (versus some other tomato tarts that bake the puff pastry first and then top fresh tomatoes on top), you’ll want to try and get as much moisture out as possible or else you’ll get a soggy mess. Just lay them out over a bunch of paper towels after they’ve been sliced and let them chill out for a bit while you take care of everything else.

After some quick assembly and about 30 minutes in the oven, you’re done! Creamy textures from ricotta mixture, brightness from tomatoes and fresh basil–and flaky, buttery goodness from the pastry dough.

Now excuse me as I stick my head in the freezer to try and cool down…..

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Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart
Serves approximately 8

Ingredients:

1 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes
2 large eggs, divided
2 heaping tablespoons basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
8 ounces ricotta cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes.
flour
1 package puff pastry dough (2 sheets about 10 x 15 inches each)
½ tablespoon water
kosher salt
4-5 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Cut the tomatoes into approximately ¼ – ⅓ inch slices. In a single layer, place the tomatoes on top of 2-3 layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture. Place another paper towel on top of the tomatoes and gently press. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk 1 egg with the pesto. Fold in the ricotta, parmesan, garlic, black pepper and red pepper flakes until all items have been incorporated. Depending on your pesto, you may need to add some additional kosher salt. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, overlap one of the pastry sheets with the other by about ⅓ inch. Gently press the seams together and roll out the combined sheet to about ⅛ inch thick. You’ll want to keep the dough in the rectangle shape and then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Cut a 1 inch strip off each of the four sides of the dough. Beat the remaining egg with ½ tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Brush the sides of the large piece of dough and lay each of the four strips on the corresponding side. Gently press the dough down. Once the tart bakes, the sides will puff up.

In the interior of the dough, evenly spread the pesto-ricotta mixture. Lay the sliced tomatoes on top of the mixture, slightly overlapping each slice. Brush the exposed dough with the egg wash mixture and sprinkle salt over the tomato tart.

Bake the tart in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes until the pastry dough has risen and becomes golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow the tart to set for a few minutes before sprinkling the basil on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Sunday Family Dinner

‘Twas a S’Autumn Fam Din

Sept 2017 Fam Din
‘Twas a S’Autumn Family Dinner….

What’s S’Autumn? It’s when it’s technically Autumn but the weather acts like we’re in the peak of Summer. Which for inland Orange County–that means the mid-90s. Ugh.

It kind of makes our dinner themes a bit difficult which results in a mish-mash of dishes…. a bit theme-less. But delicious, nonetheless.

Or maybe it’s called F’ummer? S’all? Eh, I’ll stick with S’Autumn….

September 2017 Fam Din
I spy our fur babies above! Princess Leia was walking around near my feet and Bella is at her favorite spot–in front of the warm oven. ❤

After doing a little prep work, I got to fixing up a cocktail to match the heat we were having that day – SHANDIES! Shandies are a beer based cocktail that typically combines a wheat beer and a lemonade. That’s it? Yup–that’s it!

These refreshing lovies were made with a Hefeweizen and a sweet lemonade. Because shandies are so dandy….yeah–I had to do it.

September 2017 Fam Din
Leia
is still trying to figure out what S’Autumn is.

It means whatever you want it to be, you glorious pug.

September 2017 Fam Din
S.I.L. L was hankering for some duck for dinner and picked up a whole bird from Electric City Butcher in Santa Ana.

She seasoned them up with salt, pepper and dried thyme…..

September 2017 Fam Din
….and then threw it in a bag with some rendered duck fat to sous vide for a few hours. Because after all, she and brother V were the ones who gave me the Anova so it only seemed right for her to take a spin with hit.

The breasts went in at 130 degrees F for 2 hours.

September 2017 Fam Din
While the duck was taking a dip, the girls were giving me this look.

Which interprets to: We’ll smile for the camera but we’re starving so feed us some appetizers before we get hypoglycemic.

And that look is all I need because I have lived through their hangry phases. It’s scawie.

September 2017 Fam Din
I made two appetizers to tie the fam over until dinner. The first was this colorful Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart. Isn’t she a beaut????

September 2017 Fam Din
And guess what? It starts with store bought puff pastry–because ain’t no one has got time or patience to make their own!

I then smeared it with a thin layer of a pesto and ricotta mixture — and then shingled it with sweet, ripe tomatoes. The whole thing baked in the oven for about 25 minutes and was finished with large sea salt flakes and fresh basil.

Perfection.

It’s definitely one of those appetizers I make that would be perfect as a stand alone entree on a warm summer day with a chilled glass of white vino.

September 2017 Fam Din
And for my second appetizer, I made a big pot of Tomato-Fennel Mussels served with lots of crusty warm bread to sop up all that goodness.

The base that the mussels cooked in comprised of onions, garlic, fennel, wine, clam juice and San Marzano tomatoes. And once the mussels steamed opened, they released their own sea liquor into the mix and it was divine!

September 2017 Fam Din
Absolutely scrumptious! Definitely another appetizer that could have been a stand alone with just a loaf of bread or even over some pasta.

Then this happened.

V asked out loud: “Where did these mussels come from?”

Maya nonchalantly answered: “Oh…I work out a lot.”

September 2017 Fam Din
The rest of us gave a brief silent pause and then collectively bursted out in hysterical laughter.

That clever, funny girl.

By the way, I got them at Costco. The mussels, not Maya’s fierce muscles….I can’t take credit for those guns.

September 2017 Fam Din
And then the two hours were up!

L dried off the duck and threw them into a cast iron to crisp up the skin and finish them off.

September 2017 Fam Din
A wonderful medium-rare.

Man… that sous vide is the business.

September 2017 Fam Din
She then placed the sliced duck over a bed of greens, orange segments, raspberries, nuts and a light vinaigrette. A great showing of summer transitioning into fall–don’t you think?

September 2017 Fam Din
Heyyyyyy L!

September 2017 Fam Din
And then T was up to bat with the main course!

She took a spin on Jamie Oliver’s Grilled Pesto Pork Chops. Initially she wanted to sous vide them as well (because we’re addicted) but when she picked them up, she found that although they were thick chops, they’d be fine straight on the grill.

September 2017 Fam Din

T served them with this super cheesy Parmesan-Mushroom Israeli Couscous. And I’ve got to tell you, as a super carboholic, I was all about it. It actually resembled risotto and y’all know how much I love me some risotto!

September 2017 Fam Din
And this is the point when we gave in and let the younger munchkins get on their devices. At least they were all playing in some virtual world together, right? Sometimes you just have to make some concessions…particularly while we were trying to hold them over before dessert.

September 2017 Fam Din
Did someone say dessert???!?!!

Yes Nina and V, it’s almost dessert time.

September 2017 Fam Din
Wowsers, N! Now that’s some frosting! Cream cheese frosting that is—one of my faves!

September 2017 Fam Din
N ended up making this Hummingbird Cake which is a traditional southern goodness with pineapple chunks, bananas, vanilla and lots of spices. It may seem odd if you haven’t had it before but the pineapple just gives it the lightest sweetness and moisture—essentially it tastes like a kicked up spice cake with lots of cream cheese frosting.

Yes please!

September 2017 Fam Din
Now please Mother Nature… turn down the thermostat so that we’re back at our normal 74ish degrees for Fall.

xoxo

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Shandies, Various Wine
Appetizers: Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart, Tomato-Fennel Mussels
Entrees: Grilled Pesto Pork Chops
Sides: Seared Duck Salad, Parmesan-Mushroom Israeli Couscous
Dessert: Hummingbird Cake

Pork · Vietnamese

Cơm Sườn Nướng {Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops with Rice}

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
I’ve been craving a lot of Vietnamese foods lately. It’s comforting, nostalgic and just damn tasty.

I’ve said it many times before but I didn’t realize how good we had it growing up with all of that deliciousness around us all of the time. I definitely took it for granted.

And now when I want good quality Vietnamese food, I have to make the haul up to Orange County where I beg my family to feed me or resort to swinging by one of the gazillion Việt spots in Little Saigon.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops

But then there are times where I’m home in San Diego and have to fend for myself.

Don’t get me wrong–I do like cooking Vietnamese foods, I’m just not the best at it. For sure, Mom reigned supreme and the aunties too. And nowadays, I’d say big seester N and our cousies A and T are right up there. That alone makes the idea of ever moving back to OC palatable because they’ve got skills!

There are a few Việt dishes I’m happy to make and feel pretty good about.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
Seestrah T posted a pic the other week of her grilling up some Vietnamese style pork chops which made me think of two things. First — hey! She never makes that for me! And second –sheesh, now I’m really hankering for some pork chops!

It was time to take matters into my own hands and luckily, I had all the ingredients already! My version of the marinade has staples like fish sauce, soy, sugar, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chilies. Our cousin T that lives in Đà Nẵng makes the most EPIC sườn nướng (grilled pork chops). Years ago she told us what she marinated them with but I think the woman is holding out on us because mine never taste the same! And maybe it has to do with the fact that she grills them over this teeny-tiny charcoal grill on her patio floor and perhaps that’s where the essence of Việt Nam somehow creeps in and flavors it.

Who knows….

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
For these chops, I generally prefer to use a thinner cut—about 3/4 inch thickness. They remind me more of how we have them in Việt Nam or at the restaurants here. But if you prefer a thicker cut, go for it! Just be sure to marinate them overnight or at least for 6-8 hours.

Next, I throw them on a screaming hot grill and they cook up for 1-2 minutes on each side. Easy peasy! Keep in mind that the grilling time will increase if you choose thicker cuts.

Once finished, you’ll get all of these lovely charred bits from the sugar in the marinade. It’s at that point that you’ll want to quickly brush them with hành mơ — scallion oil.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
I serve these pork chops pretty traditionally with a heaping scoop of steamed rice, sliced cucumbers & tomatoes, lots of spicy nước chấm (dipping sauce) and of course – a sunny side up fried egg with crispy edges. Now I know these days, some frown upon crispy edges on eggs. Quite frankly, I don’t know when that became out of fashion—but dang it! It’s darn tasty that way and adds texture.

If you order this dish out, you may also find that instead of a fried egg it will be served with Chả Trứng which is like a steamed egg meatloaf. It may sound strange to you but trust me, it’s awesome. Honestly, I was too lazy to make it (though it’s not difficult) but I promise I will someday soon and will share it with y’all.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops

On this particular day, I plated them with a few Chả Giò . It’s not something I always do but seeing how I had a stash in my freezer, it seemed like the proper occasion to bust them out.

And with that dear peeps, Ăn Ngon!

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Cơm Sườn Nướng {Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops with Rice}
Serves 4

Ingredients:

Sườn Nướng – Grilled Pork Chops:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh lemongrass
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
½ tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
2 Thai chili peppers, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops

Nước Chấm –Spicy Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 Thai chili peppers, minced
½ tablespoon Sambal chili paste, more or less to taste

Hành Mơ – Scallion Oil:
½ cup light olive oil
1 cup chopped scallions

Serve With:
steamed rice
4 crispy fried eggs
sliced cucumber
sliced tomatoes
lettuce or mixed greens

In a bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, oil, soy sauce and sugar together until the latter has dissolved. Stir in the shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, chili peppers and black pepper. Place the pork chops in a shallow dish or large resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the pork, ensuring that the meat is well coated. Cover the dish (or seal the bag) and allow the pork to marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours. (If using thick chops, marinade overnight.)

Prepare the nước chấm (spicy dipping sauce). In a small bowl or jar, mix ¼ cup sugar with the hot water until the sugar starts to dissolve. Stir in ¼ cup fish sauce, lime juice, chili peppers and Sambal chili paste. Set aside.

Prepare the hành mơ (scallion oil). In a small sauté pan, slowly heat the canola oil. Add the chopped scallions. Cook the scallions on very low heat until they are wilted but still bright green. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and set aside.

Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to take the chill off. Bring your grill to medium-high heat and lightly grease the grates with oil or cooking spray. Grill the pork chops for 1-2 minutes on each side until browned and slightly charred. If using thick chops, add an additional 2-3 minutes per side—depending on thickness. Remove the pork chops from the grill and generously brush them with the hành mơ. Cover and set aside while 4 plates are prepared.

On each plate, place a generous mound of rice and brush it with the hành mơ. Place one fried egg over the rice and add a few slices of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce/greens on the plate. Add one pork chop along with a small bowl of nước chấm.

Serve immediately.

 

Vietnamese

Chả Giò – Vietnamese Imperial Rolls (Egg Rolls)

Chả Giò
The truth is, if you don’t like egg rolls (or fried spring rolls), I will judge you. I mean, C’MON! What is there not to love??? Crispy, crunchy exterior wrapper that envelopes an incredibly savory filling? It’s perfection!

When done right, that is.

And what makes a bad egg roll in my opinion?

Soggy wrapper. Ugh.

Unbalanced filling. Depressing.

And yes–I’m talking about those that have like 90% cabbage in them. That’s just not right!

Chả Giò
So many Asian cultures have their own spin on them…chun juan, lumpia, popiah tod and of course, my personal favorite, the Vietnamese version — Chả Giò!

Chả Giò –or Nem Rán as it’s called in Northern Việt Nam–doesn’t have cabbage in the filling (thank Buddha!) and often uses a combination of pork and seafood. You’ll also often find taro and jicama included with the usual combination of wood ear mushrooms, cellophane noodles, carrots and other aromatics.

Traditional Chả Giò (also called Imperial Rolls) are rolled up in rice paper versus the Chinese style wrappers made of flour and eggs. The rice paper gives a wonderful balance of textures between crispiness and chewiness. When fried, the paper becomes quite bubbly as shown here with the pics of the Chả Giò served with vermicelli.

Texture is hella important to me peeps.

Chả Giò
Growing up, Mom primarily made Chả Giò with the Chinese style wrappers like the ones shown above so it’s normally how I make them too. They come frozen in all sizes but I prefer using the ones that are about 7 x 7 inches. I find that it makes for a nice size roll–not too big, not too small. Chả Giò rolled in these wrappers also tend to freeze better than the ones rolled in rice paper.

Chả Giò
But even though I tend to lean towards the other wrappers, I will roll a few in rice paper to be enjoyed that day. It really adds a different touch and I totally recommend it. One tip though when using rice paper, avoid over wetting it! Either barely dunk it in warm water or take a very damp kitchen towel and press it on the sheet until it becomes just pliable. Too much moisture makes them susceptible to tearing.

Chả Giò
Another thing Mom always taught us to do is try out the filling before you start rolling the Chả Giò. It would be a total bummer if you didn’t and found that after an hour of rolling and frying the Chả Giò, you discover that the filling is bland or some seasoning is off.

Save yourself the heartache and before you roll, take about spoonful of the filling and pan fry it up. It shouldn’t take more than a minute or so. Taste and adjust for seasonings as needed.

Trust me, you’ll thank me. Or actually, Mom.

Chả Giò
Here are a few other tips…..

Don’t get greedy. And by this, I mean do not over stuff the rolls. About 2 tablespoons for an 7 x 7 inch wrapper is sufficient–anything more and you risk the rolls exploding.

And that’s just no bueno.

Chả Giò
Roll the Chả Giò tightly, avoiding any air bubbles and seal the edges well with an egg wash. It will help the rolls keep its shape during the frying process and avoid them bursting.

Again, because that would be super no bueno.

Chả Giò
Keep your oil at a moderate and even heat. Too hot and your wrappers will burn and the filling won’t cook. Too cool and too much oil will seep into the roll and it won’t get super crunchy.

Chả Giò
And finally, ALWAYS make a double batch.

Seriously.

If you’re going to go and put in the effort to make these labor of love (and they do take some time but are SOOO worth it), you might as well stock up your freezer!

Again, you’ll thank me for it when you get a hankering one day for some bomb Chả Giò and remember that you’ve got a stash waiting for you in the freezer.

Chả Giò
As for how to serve them–so many options!

On Its Own: Take a Chả Giò and wrap it in a large lettuce leaf filled with fresh herbs and dunk it into some spicy and stanky nước chấm. It’s damn good.

Bún Chả Giò: Chả Giò with cold vermicelli noodles and veggies are the perfect interplay of different textures (told ya it’s important), varying temperatures and freshness from all the veggies. A generous pour of nước chấm all over the bowl is mandatory. Check out my post on Bún Tôm Nướng Sả (Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp over Vermicelli Noodles) for instructions on how to construct the fixins’ for a big ol’ bowl of bún.

Chả Giò
Cơm “Whatever Protein You Like” Chả Giò: If you’ve eaten at a phở restaurant, then you’d likely have tried or at least seen the numerous rice plates we love to enjoy. Usually grilled chicken, shrimp, beef or pork chops are served up with a mound of rice (sometimes cơm tấm–or broken rice), a crispy fried egg, veggies—and if you order like I do– some Chả Giò.

Chả Giò
However you serve it up, I hope you love these Chả Giò as much as I do. ❤
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Chả Giò – Vietnamese Imperial Rolls (Egg Rolls)
Makes approximately 50-60 rolls

Ingredients:

2 pounds lean ground pork
10 ounces crab meat
½ pound shrimp, chopped
1 cup rehydrated cellophane (bean thread) noodles, minced
1 cup rehydrated wood ear mushrooms, minced
1 cup shredded carrots, minced
½ cup finely diced white onion
¼ cup finely diced scallions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons fish sauce, more if needed
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon water
50-60 wrappers (either the Chinese style wrappers or rice paper sheets)
vegetable oil

Place the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Beat 2 eggs and pour it into the large bowl. Add the fish sauce, pepper and mix all the items until everything has been well incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for one hour. To test for seasoning, take a small spoonful of the mixture and pan fry in a nonstick skillet for about 1 minute on each side. Taste and adjust for seasoning as needed.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg with the water.

Begin assembly. If using the Chinese egg roll wrappers, place one sheet on a flat surface with one corner facing towards you. Moisten the edge of the top left and right side of the wrapper with the egg wash. Place about 2 tablespoons of the filling in a line approximately 1/3 up from the bottom corner. Tightly roll the bottom of the wrapper over the filling. Fold the right side of the roll in and fold the left side in. Continue to tightly roll up until you’ve created a secured roll. Place the roll on a tray and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. If using rice paper, use a very damp and clean kitchen towel to just barely moisten the sheet so that it becomes pliable—you will not need the egg wash. Follow the same steps above to fill and wrap the roll.

Heat a large pan or high walled skillet with about 2 inches of oil until it reaches 350 degrees F. In batches, carefully place the chả giò into the hot oil. Fry, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes until the filling has cooked through and they turn golden brown. If using rice paper, cut down the frying time by about 1 minute–and the color will be golden but not browned. Remove the rolls from the fryer and drain on a rack that sits on a baking tray.

Serve hot with lots of nước chấm

 

Drinks

Fresh Mango Mojitos

August 2017 Family Dinner
Since I posted the last Fam Din wrap up, I’ve received a few requests to share the recipe for our Fresh Mango Mojitos—and I’m happy to oblige!

Mojitos are one of my favorite cocktails because it mixes the combinations of lots of tart citrus from the limes and freshness from the mint. But I rarely order it out because 9 out 10 times, I’m completely disappointed. Mojitos aren’t difficult to make–but it does take a bit of time to muddle everything together. Plus, I find that places skimp out on the limes and mint (BOO!!) and either use flat club soda or shake the carbonation out of it (DOUBLE BOO!) And that’s just a bad combination!

Fuggetaboutit! Just make your own!

August 2017 Family Dinner
Fresh Mango Mojitos are truly a fantastic spin of the original. I use a combination of ripe mangoes (I prefer ataulfo mangoes) and mango nectar (LOVE the one from Trader Joe’s) to really punch up the floral mango flavor. Plus, since the fruit and nectar bring their own sweetness, there’s no need to add additional sugar or simple syrups in.

They’re perfect, refreshing and just downright delicious. Cheers!! ❤

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Fresh Mango Mojitos
Serves 1

Ingredients:

15-20 fresh mint leaves, more for garnish
½ lime, cut into small wedges
2 ounces light rum
3 ounces mango nectar
3 tablespoons diced ripe and fresh mango
2 ounces club soda
1-2 cups crushed ice

In a cocktail shaker, thoroughly muddle the mint leaves and lime wedges. Add the light rum, mango nectar and fill the shaker with ice. Vigorously shake for 20 seconds and strain the liquids into a tall glass. Add the fresh mangoes and mash them in. Add ice to the glass and top with club soda. Gently stir the liquids together and garnish with additional mint leaves.

Sunday Family Dinner

Eldest Munchkin’s Family Dinner

August 2017 Family Dinner
I was in the room when she came into this world.

I waited for her for a gazillion of hours (yeah–likely felt longer for seester that actually birthed her)…..and then she popped out.

Our chubby little bebe girl….our first munchkin.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And now she’s 19 and in college….and I’m still only 20 years old.

Kind of magical how that can happen right?

August 2017 Family Dinner

But that’s our Nina girl…..

Bright, compassionate, silly and a ‘SC fan (of course I had nothing to do with that!…not!)

And our other munchkins just adore her.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Our latest Family Dinner was all about Nina — all her favorites — in honor of her birthday. We’ve held some memorable Fam Din themes in years past for her like our full blown lu’au or when V took on Alton Brown’s chimney method to cook dry aged steaks.

But this time, she opted for some low key options.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And as you all know, first up is always cocktails!!

This month we went for a family fav — fresh Mango Mojitos!

These beauts are made with lots of muddled mint, limes, fresh mangoes, mango nectar, lots of light rum and a splash of club soda. Soooooo lovely!

August 2017 Family Dinner

Did I mention that it happened to be the season opener for ‘SC?

Goooooo Trojans!!

August 2017 Family Dinner

So what was the first thing Nina asked to be on her menu that night?

Chicken wings.

Yup, chicken wings.

Hey–how could I say no to that? I love me some wings and it was game day and all.

And since I’m obsessed with my Anova Precision Cooker, I sous vide the wings first.

August 2017 Family Dinner
I made two types per birthday girl’s request — buffalo and parmesan. So after seasoning them, I threw the chicken into bags and sous vide them at 147.2 degrees F for 2 hours.

Once they were done, I patted them dry with lots of paper towels and tossed them in a blend of AP flour, cornstarch and seasonings. The wings then went into a deep fryer for 2-3 minutes until they were golden brown.

The Garlicky Parmesan batch were tossed into a butter-garlic sauce.

The Hot Buffalo Wings were tossed into a butter-hot sauce mixture.

Chicken loves butter.

And so do I.

August 2017 Family Dinner
I served the wings with ranch dressing (Nina’s fav) and whipped up an easy blue cheese dressing.

August 2017 Family Dinner
If you love blue cheese dressing but haven’t made it before—DO IT!

Just throw some blue cheese, mayo, sour cream, buttermilk, white wine vinegar, garlic and some seasoning into a food processor. Let it whirl for it a bit and voila!

Easy peasy!

August 2017 Family Dinner
And if you’ve ever wondered what the behind-the-scenes of our dinners look like–here you go!

Yup, kind of a mess.

August 2017 Family Dinner

But hey! Foodventures are messy sometimes.

Delicious but messy.

August 2017 Family Dinner
The second appetizer that we made for Nina was deep fried cheese.

Mmmmmm……

V made these ooey-gooey Mozzarella Sticks with Homemade Marinara. Mozz sticks are actually pretty simple to make (especially since we already had the deep fryer out) but are such a fun hit–particularly around football season.

All you need to do is freeze mozzarella string cheese for about 30 minutes. You then dredge them into seasoned breadcrumbs before deep-frying until golden brown. V made an awesome marina sauce that is a favorite with his youngins’.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Oh our wrinkly fur-babies….we love them so. ❤

And they love Family Dinner too! It’s where the action is…but mostly because they get extra goodies.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Now it couldn’t be a meal for Nina without beef involved. Seestrah T seasoned these big ol’ bone-in ribeye steaks with lots of salt, pepper and fresh rosemary springs.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And you guessed it! We threw them in to be sous vide at 130 degrees F for two and a half hours.

I freaking love this thing.

August 2017 Family Dinner
After the steaks were done with their bath, the boys threw them on the grill for a quick char.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Helllooooo…….

August 2017 Family Dinner
They came out a beautiful medium-rare and tender.

As in tenderoni.

August 2017 Family Dinner
The boys were taking a break from all that grilling and frying.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Growing up the only dude smack dab in the middle of 4 seesters, I have to imagine that V’s pumped to finally have brothers. Although let’s face it, he was pretty darn lucky having us!

August 2017 Family Dinner
Here’s N posing in her newly remodeled kitchen. Everything is so new and shiny now.

August 2017 Family Dinner
She made decadent Crab Cakes with a Homemade Tartar Sauce.

August 2017 Family Dinner
So pretty!! I wish I had one now….

Or more like 3.

August 2017 Family Dinner
So nice I had to show you twice!

August 2017 Family Dinner

Brother is showing off his knife skills on some pears.
August 2017 Family Dinner
R wanted in on that action too.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Kids – don’t try this at home.

Brothers will always be brothers….

August 2017 Family Dinner
But he did fix up this nice Gorgonzola-Pear Salad.

Mmmmm…cheese.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Remember those gorgeous ribeye steaks from before?

August 2017 Family Dinner
T sliced them up to make Ciabatta Ribeye Paninis.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And of course someone pilfered some to feed his nephew.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Inside the panini, she spread a layer of horseradish and filled them with caramelized onions, arugula and cheese.

August 2017 Family Dinner
They were crunchy, gooey, and beefy.

August 2017 Family Dinner
I love saying “beefy”. It makes me giggle.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Someone’s ready for dinner!

August 2017 Family Dinner
I don’t even know what to say about this picture other than we’re a bunch of sillies.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Cousie love!

And college football.

Some of my favorite things in the world.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And more cheeses while N put the finishing touches on dessert.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Birthday gal with her auntie. They’re cute. I think I’ll keep them.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Nina requested this Chocolate Raspberry Tart. It’s a fantastic tart with a shortbread like crust and a filling that tastes like rich chocolate truffles. I used to make them often but now N makes it all the time so I don’t have to. Perks of having a seestrah that likes to bake.

August 2017 Family Dinner
She really is adorable.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Happy Birthday Nina Bebe! We love you to the moon and back–and back around again! ❤

August 2017 Family Dinner

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Mango Mojitos, Various Wine
Appetizers: Parmesan-Garlic Chicken Wings, Spicy Buffalo Wings, Fried Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara
Entrees: Ciabatta Ribeye Paninis, Crab Cakes with Tartar Sauce
Sides: Gorgonzola-Pear Salad
Dessert: Chocolate Raspberry Tart