Beef · Soups/Stews

Ground Beef Chili {aka “Tailgate Chili”}

Ground Beef Chili
I realize that crying about 50 degree weather in March could be categorized as some major first world problems….

BUT I’M IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PEOPLE! THIS JUST ISN’T RIGHT!

Ok. Now that I got that out of my system, should we chat a bit about this Ground Beef Chili?

Sure, I love my tried and true Turkey and Bean Chili. It’s hearty, savory and just darn tasty.

However this beef chili is just….”beefy”. It’s delicious on its own topped with a few onions, a bit of cheese and a dollup of sour cream. But it’s freaking awesome on top of burgers, hot dogs, fries, nachos—which is why I also call it my “Tailgate Chili” where anything goes!

Ground Beef ChiliA few things to mention about this recipe.

First is the addition of baking soda and a bit of water to the ground beef. Sounds strange right? But I picked it up from a Cooks Illustrated recipe and the added step helps keep the beef moist and tender.

Second is the ground tortilla chips. PLEASE don’t skip this! You will be so pleasantly surprised by the deep corn flavor it imparts on the chili and compliments it beautifully.

Last are the beans. I prefer pinto or red kidney beans but really, it’s totally up to you. Black beans, garbanzo beans, butter beans, cannellini beans, navy beans…. Do you, Boo!

Ground Beef Chili
And if you’re going to make a batch of this, why not double it? I have a few quarts of this deliciousness tucked away in my freezer and I will tell you, I never regret that decision when I can have a scrumptious bowl of chili within a few minutes.

Stay warm my fellow So Cal Peeps! ❤

_______________________________________________________
Ground Beef Chili
Serves 8-9

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground beef
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
kosher salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
½ teaspoon cayenne power
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup ground tortilla chips
2 cups beef stock
1 can (15-ounce) kidney or pinto beans, rinsed
15 ounces pureed tomatoes
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef with the water, baking soda and 2 teaspoons salt. Allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Cook the onions and jalapenos until softened—about 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add beef and cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break meat up into ¼ inch pieces, until the beef is browned – about 12 to 14 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute. Stir in all of the dried spices including the ground tortilla chips. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Pour in the beef stock, beans and pureed tomatoes. Bring to boil, scraping bottom of pot to loosen any browned bits. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat to a low simmer. Simmer the chili partially covered, for 1½ hours. Stir the chili every 15 minutes or so as it slowly thickens.

Remove the pot from the stove and allow to rest, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and add additional salt if needed. Serve with your choice of diced red onion, shredded cheddar cheese, diced avocado, chopped scallions, fresh cilantro, sour cream, lime wedges and tortilla chips

 

 

Advertisements
Appetizers/Small Plates · Pork

Pork and Shiitake Mushroom Dumplings

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
There was a moment the other week when I stopped and said to myself, “Do you have a dumplings problem?”

I mean…sure, it was when I was elbow deep in folding about 100 dumplings. But then I quickly shook off the momentary doubt and kept on assembling.

Because dumplings make the world better!

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
And if this is how I can contribute to adding positivity, it would be just bad ju-ju if I stopped making them—don’t you think?

Too much of a stretch?

Sorry…I was on a dumplings high.

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
Speaking of a dumplings high, I am pretty pumped that I’ve got a healthy stash of these little buggers currently in my freezer just waiting to be broken into whenever the cravings hit.

The predominant ingredients in the filling are ground pork and shiitake mushrooms – the perfect pairing.

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
Shiitake mushrooms provide such an earthy flavor and I use two forms of them in this filling – dried and fresh.

Why two?

It’s because I primarily use the dried shiitakes in order to extract a “mushroom liquid” during the rehydration process. I slowly incorporate this mushroom liquid into the ground pork to not only flavor the meat but it also results in a great texture while producing a juicier filling.

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
Because juicy dumplings are muy bueno.

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
Which reminds me to strongly suggest that you avoid using lean ground pork in this.

Just like when you’re making hamburgers, you need some of that fat for a juicier filling.

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings

Once you have these beauties filled and folded, you can opt to cook them any way that tickles your fancy. I generally either boil or pan-fry them and have included instructions for both below. But if you’re in a steaming or deep-fry mood, go for it!

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings

Heck, I often throw some into my instant ramen!

Versatility people – it’s a beautiful thing! ❤

_______________________________________________________
Pork and Shiitake Mushroom Dumplings
Makes approximately 40 dumplings

Ingredients:

Dumplings:
2 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms*
1 cup boiling water
2 cups finely chopped Napa cabbage
kosher salt, divided
1 pound ground pork
½ teaspoon Sichuan pepper flakes
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups minced fresh shiitake mushrooms
½ cup chopped scallions, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce (more, if needed)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or other preferred rice wine
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 package Shanghai-style dumpling wrappers (50 count) + water to moisten
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon finely minced ginger
2 tablespoons homemade Sichuan Chili Oil (both the oil and flakes), more to taste

Rehydrate the dried shiitake mushrooms* by placing them in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set aside for 20 minutes until the mushrooms have rehydrated. Gently squeeze the excess liquid from the mushrooms (reserving the “mushroom liquid”) and finely dice them. Set aside.

Place the chopped cabbage in a colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and let sit for about 20 minutes. Wrap the cabbage in a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel. Squeeze out and discard the excess liquid and place the drained cabbage back in the colander.

Place the ground pork in a large bowl and add in the Sichuan pepper flakes, black pepper and ½ teaspoon salt. Using chopsticks, swirl the meat in a clockwise direction while gradually adding 4 tablespoons of the mushroom liquid. Keeping swirling until the liquid has fully incorporated into the ground pork. To the bowl, add both mushrooms, cabbage, scallions, shallots, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil and ground coriander. Using cleans hands, mix the filling until thoroughly combined.

Test the filling by taking a small spoonful of the mixture and pan fry in a nonstick skillet for 1-2 minutes on each side. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

Begin assembly of the dumplings. Lay one dumpling wrapper on a flat surface or in the palm of your hand. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of the wrapper. Fold the dumpling in half and pinch the center together. Starting from the center, make about 4-5 pleats on the right side of the dumpling. Repeat with the left side of the dumpling so that all the pleats point towards the center. This will also create a flat bottom to allow the dumpling to sit upright and form a slight crescent shape. Place the dumpling on a baking sheet and continue until all the filling/wrappers have been used.**

Prepare the dipping sauce by whisking all of the ingredients together and set aside.

Cook the Dumplings

Boiled Dumplings: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the dumplings to the pot (no more than a 9 or 10 at a time, depending on how large your pot is) and lower the heat so that it’s at a steady but not rapid boil. Stir frequently so that they do not stick together. Allow the dumplings to cook for about 5 or 6 minutes or until the filling has cooked through. Use a large slotted spoon or kitchen spider to remove and drain the dumplings. Transfer to a serving dish and spoon the sauce over them. Garnish with scallions, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Pan-Fried Dumplings: Heat a large frying skillet to medium-high heat with 2 tablespoon of oil. Place a single layer of the dumplings in the skillet. Fry the dumplings for 1-2 minutes until the bottoms are golden. Carefully pour in about ½ cup of water and immediately place a tight fitting lid on top. Lower the heat to medium-low and allow the dumplings to steam for 4-5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until all the water has evaporated. Transfer the dumplings to a platter and sprinkle the tops with scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce on the side.

*If using whole dried shiitake mushrooms, quarter them before hydrating.

**If you would like to freeze the uncooked dumplings, 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 froze, 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.

 

 

 

Condiments/Sauces · Vietnamese

Basic Nước Chấm {Vietnamese Dipping Sauce}

Nước Chấm | Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
Chances are, if you have had Vietnamese food, you’ve had some version of nước chấm.

Bún Thịt Nướng (Vietnamese Grilled Pork over Vermicelli Noodles)
Nước Chấm (also called nước mắm pha) is a quintessential fish sauce-based dipping sauce served with a variety of traditional Vietnamese dishes. And it’s the balance of salty, sweet and acidity that makes it the perfect condiment.

Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Sizzling Crepe)
You’ll see it with anything from cơm (rice plates), bún (noodle dishes), gỏi (salads), bánh (cakes – usually savory), cuốn (rolls) or even just with proteins.

Gỏi Mít Trộn (Vietnamese Young Jackfruit Salad)
Depending on the dish, nước chấm can vary a bit but it all starts with a similar base: fish sauce, sugar, water and lime juice (or vinegar).

Chả Cá Thăng Long (Vietnamese Style Fish with Turmeric & Dill)
From there you can add things like fresh ginger and have Nước Mắm Gừng. This ginger variation is most often served with poultry or seafood.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
When served along rice noodle bowls, you’ll find shredded carrots and daikon in it.

Phở Gà
And in some cases, proteins are served in nước chấm as with the classic Bún Chả Hà Nội. With this dish, grilled pork and ground pork patties are served in a bowl of nước chấm that also contain fresh green papaya slices in it.

Chả Giò
Since nước chấm is such a staple, I almost always have a big batch of the standard version in my fridge ready to be doctored up if need be. And in most cases, this basic version is perfect as is.

The biggest challenge to this dipping sauce is finding the right balance between the very few ingredients it requires. Trust me, I’ve spent my early years making sauces that were either too sweet or too salty or just bland. Thankfully, I finally was able to get a good ratio down that yields reliable results.

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)
One thing to keep in mind is that depending on the brand of nước mắm (fish sauce) that you use, you will have to adjust to taste. Some brands are less filtered and are more pungent –not a bad thing, just something you have to compensate for.

Nước Chấm | Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
After you’ve whipped up a big batch, it’ll last in a sealed container in your fridge for about 3 months. It’ll probably be fine a bit longer but you may lose some of the freshness that the lime juice initially gave.

And whether you add ginger, additional herbs or just use the basic version, your palates will thank you for it!

Ăn Ngon!

_______________________________________________________
Basic Nước Chấm

Ingredients:

1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced chilies, more or less based on preference
1⁄3 – ½ cup fresh lime juice
1 cup nước mắm (fish sauce)

Place the sugar into a large bowl and slowly pour in the boiling water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and allow to cool completely to room temperature. Add in garlic, chilies, 1⁄3 cup lime juice and nước mắm. Taste and add the rest of the lime juice if needed — this will vary depending on the type/brand of fish sauce that you use.

The nước chấm can be served as is or stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Fun Fact: I store my stash of nước chấm in old wine bottles that have screw caps on them. So double check next time you’re rummaging around my fridge for a glass of vino. ❤

 

Sunday Family Dinner

Our February Birthday Girls

February 2019 Fam Din
This month we celebrated the birthdays of these two sweeties — Maya and Princess Leia. ❤

Maya turned 14 and Leia is now 11. Aren’t they just the most adorable pair?

February 2019 Fam Din
And since Tết – the Vietnamese Lunar New Year – was happening at that time, Seester P and her clan made their way down from SF to join in on all of the celebrations.

Our youngest munckin was SOOOO excited to be with her SoCal family!

Ms. Kaelani is growing up to be quite the character! She was a nonstop chatterbox during her visit and was constantly singing!

Mulan’s “Let’s Get Down to Business” is one of her current favs but of course, Moana and Frozen are never far away.

And if you were watching my IG stories that weekend, you likely caught her bellowing out a few lines of a Madonna classic. I won’t divulge which one but needless to say, she was hilarious.

Such a funny and rascally little gal.

February 2019 Fam Din

It’s ALWAYS a fun time when all of the Nguyễn sibbies are together!

Always loud, always chaotic….

Lots of teasing and laughing….

Especially when we’ve got some cocktails in us!

February 2019 Fam Din

For this month, I made Palomas again because I love how bright and citrusy they are. There’s something about them that makes me feel “healthy”…..maybe the grapefruit juice?

I know I’m just fooling myself since it’s accompanied with a heavy pour of blanco tequila!

February 2019 Fam Din

Also at that time, V and L had been puppy-sitting their neighbor’s new little furbaby – Ollie!

February 2019 Fam Din

He’s an adorable little fluffy pup — and all of the kiddos just adored him!

February 2019 Fam Din
Well…all the humanlings that is.

Don’t get me wrong…. Bella didn’t dislike him. I think she was just worried that it was another puppy that she would have to share all the treats with. Plus, she doesn’t like to have to fight for her humans’ attentions because as far as she’s concerned — she’s the queen.

February 2019 Fam Din
I did notice that she was spending EXTRA time with each of her humans to ensure that they still remembered who was in charge.

February 2019 Fam Din
As for Leia – she took to Ollie just fine.

She was just PUMPED that it was her birthday dinner because she knew her birthday “dessert” was going to be delish!

Don’t you just love how she sits? What a little lady…..

February 2019 Fam Din
Ollie is one of the rare beings outside of our immediate family that has attended one of our Fam Dins.

It’s like hitting the lottery!

February 2019 Fam Din
Time for food!

As for the menu that night, we all took inspiration from Maya’s favorite things.

Like her mama and papa, she’s a steak gal.

February 2019 Fam Din
So earlier that morning, I took 6 New York Strip Steaks and cubed them up. Yes….SIX! There were a lot of us!

I marinated the cubed beef in shallots, garlic, EVOO, parsley, cilantro, chili flakes, S & P and ….. um…..

I’m not going to lie…..I threw in some other stuff that I can’t remember.

February 2019 Fam Din

Oh wait! I think there was some lime zest and juice?

I know, I’m a terrible food blogger.

Anywhoooo……

After the beef did its thing in the fridge for about 8 hours, Nina skewered them for me.

February 2019 Fam Din
Tag R – you’re in!

Nina and I then handed the skewers over so that R could grill ’em up.

February 2019 Fam Din
While R finished up, I gathered the fixings I had prepped earlier to go with the skewers.

For the sauce, I turned to one of my most favorites – chimichurri! I adjusted my standard recipe (which is so tasty!) and added more EVOO while I blended it so that it turned into almost an aioli consistency. It was wonderfully creamy and luscious drizzled over the beef.

For an extra bright bite, I topped them with my pickled red onions.

February 2019 Fam Din
Grilled Steak Skewers with Creamy Chimichurri and Pickled Red Onions – how many do you think you could throw down?

February 2019 Fam Din
Thanks for the awesome grill job R!

February 2019 Fam Din
Oh these two….

It makes my heart explode to see how close they are.

And it also makes me cringe to imagine what type of shenanigans they’ll get into together when they’re as old as T and I!

Eeek!

February 2019 Fam Din
Quick pause for a kitchen pic before L and V got started on the other app.

February 2019 Fam Din
Ms. Maya is a big fan of fried calamari so brother V took squid pieces, lightly tossed them into seasoned flour and then fried them up until they were nice and crispy.

February 2019 Fam Din
L made a classic marinara sauce for us to dunk the calamari in.

February 2019 Fam Din
Crispy Calamari with Fresh Marinara – irresistible!

February 2019 Fam Din
Look! I inadvertently made cocktails that matched P’s shirt.

February 2019 Fam Din

By then, it was getting close to someone’s bedtime. No, not me… Kaelani!

So P asked if we could move up lì xì time to ensure the youngest munchkin would still be awake.

Tết is all about welcoming the Lunar New Year with family and includes giving out lì xì for luck to the munchkins. Starting from oldest to youngest, they say Chúc Mừng Năm Mới (Happy New Year) and we give them our blessings and best wishes along with lì xì (little envelopes filled with some lucky moola).

February 2019 Fam Din
Someone was WIDE AWAKE now!

Lì xì does have that magical affect!

February 2019 Fam Din

With the well wishes and lucky money doled out, we put the finishing touches on dinner.

P was getting chilly and didn’t want to get her clothes splattered while she cooked, so she borrowed L’s onesie.

Extra funny since they were Christmas jammies and looked ginormous on her.

February 2019 Fam Din
P crusted up tuna steaks with sesame seeds and crushed coriander before searing.

February 2019 Fam Din
She then topped the Seared Tuna over Mixed Greens and added fresh oranges, crispy wonton chips, sliced almonds and a light sesame vinaigrette.

February 2019 Fam Din

I blame the below on the Christmas onesie.

Or the extra strong refill cocktail we made her.

Probably both.

February 2019 Fam Din
Seestrah T took charge of the entree — an homage to one of Maya’s favorite dishes from Corner Baker.

February 2019 Fam Din

Creamy Pesto Cavatappi with Grilled Chicken … super rich and comforting.

T did a spot on job with this copycat recipe — trust me, I had my fair share of it.

February 2019 Fam Din

How the heck is Lucas doing that with his tongue?!

February 2019 Fam Din

Dinner time! Everyone to the table please!

Bella….always the first one waiting.

February 2019 Fam Din

Some one was SUPER tired by this time and barely made it through dinner.

February 2019 Fam Din

But in her defense, after all that pasta, we ALL were feeling a bit sleepy.

February 2019 Fam Din
For fear of us passing out, we quickly got dessert ready for our two birthday girls.

February 2019 Fam Din
Maya loves strawberries and chocolate and sprinkles.

Big Seester N took the lead with her dessert and made a chocolate cheesecake that had strawberry slices inside. The crust, of course, was made of Oreos….because why not add more chocolate?

February 2019 Fam Din
Nini made chocolate covered strawberries to top the cheesecake with. Aren’t they perfect? As a college student, she could totally build a side hustle selling them–don’t you think?

Everyday we hustlin’…..

February 2019 Fam Din
Strawberry-Chocolate Decadence Cheesecake …. seester nailed it with this one.

February 2019 Fam Din
And don’t forget our 2nd birthday babe – Princess Leia!

When R was grilling the beef skewers earlier, I asked him to also throw on a 7th New York Strip Steak I had bought. Yes…I procured 6 steaks to cube up for our appetizer and left the 7th one whole for Leia’s birthday “cake-steak”.

Hey, a girl only turns 11 once! And that face…how could I not?

February 2019 Fam Din

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAYA AND LEIA! You both are such sweet souls.

WE LOVE YOU! ❤

_______________________________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Palomas, Various Wines
Appetizers: Grilled Steak Skewers with Creamy Chimichurri and Pickled Onions, Crispy Calamari with Fresh Marinara
Entree: Creamy Pesto Cavatappi with Grilled Chicken
Sides: Seared Tuna over Mixed Greens
Dessert: Strawberry-Chocolate Decadence Cheesecake

 

ps. YAHOO! I DID IT! All caught up with our Fam Din recaps! 😉

Sunday Family Dinner

What the Capricorns Want, the Capricorns Get

January 2019 Fam Din
At dinner in December, our January Babies (Seestrah T and Nini) were lamenting about how they felt like they get shortchanged for their bday Fam Din. Since their month comes right after the holidays where we are constantly feasting and living on the gluttonous side, they were under the belief that they “took one for the team” and only requested dishes that weren’t too laborious nor decadent when it came their turn.

We did have to quickly remind them that their previous dinners included dishes like Sous Vide Pork Belly Baos, Braised Short Ribs over Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi, Toasted Coconut Cake, French Onion Soup, Matcha Mille Crêpes Cake, Fresh Oysters and Dungeness Crab.

That doesn’t sound at all shabby! Am I right?

January 2019 Fam Din
But if the Capricorns wanted to go B-I-G for their 2019 dinner, it was our duty to acquiesce to their requests and get to work. And boy did they know exactly what they wanted!

So much so that little Luna rolled up her sleeves and got down to work.

January 2019 Fam Din
Big cousin Maya was so proud of her that she gave her a break to give her a quick back rub.

Um Maya….next month – you’re rubbing all of our feet!

THANKS!

January 2019 Fam Din
January Fam Din happened to fall on the same day of the NFC and AFC Championship games. Needless to say, we were never far away from a tv.

January 2019 Fam Din
After a quick update on the score and a selfie with Pops, I got to cooking Appetizer #1 requested by both Nini and T….

Duck Dumplings!

January 2019 Fam Din
I assumed that I would be tasked with this dish but I wanted to ask if either of them had even tried duck dumplings before – because I sure as heck hadn’t!

Nope. They hadn’t either.

January 2019 Fam Din
But the Capricorns felt that duck would be delicious inside a little dumpling so off to recipe testing I went. Lucky for me, we just had an epic Foodventure with Peking Duck – so I was feeling rather confident….sorta.

This was something that was going to take A LOT of time so I knew that I would have to prep everything before dinner and then cook the dumplings off that night.

January 2019 Fam Din
After mulling it over for awhile, I decided that I wanted to sous vide duck thighs so that the meat would be nice and tender.

I first marinated the duck thighs overnight in lots of garlic, ginger, five spice, soy, Shaoxing wine and pepper. Then, I sous vide them for 12 hours – yes, 12 HOURS! Thigh meat can be tough so it takes some time.

Oh the things we do for family….

January 2019 Fam Din
Okay…back to the dumplings.

After the duck was done, I shredded the meat and sauteed it with shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, shallots, scallions, garlic, ginger and a whole bunch of spices and aromatics.

January 2019 Fam Din
Then it was time to assemble the bunch!

I chose to fold them in these pretty little crescent shapes with a twisted braid. I have to admit, they were fun to make.

And since I knew that Appetizer #2 would be steamed (SPOILER ALERT – there were 2 different dumplings!), I opted to pan fry these for a different texture with Nini’s assistance.

January 2019 Fam Din
Pan Fried Duck Dumplings that we dunked in hot mustard, chili oil and black vinegar.

Yeah….I’ll be making these again.

January 2019 Fam Din
This is what happens when I ask the girls to get ME a glass of Rosé.

January 2019 Fam Din

Remember these little buggers I had suggested that y’all make for Lunar New Year?

Yup – they were developed for this Family Dinner.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Super decadent Steamed Crab Dumplings.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
They went SUPER FAST that it made me feel like one of those dim sum cart ladies.

And then V and L were up to prep one of two main dishes.

Steamed Crab Dumplings

Quick funny story.

A couple of days before dinner, V and L texted the group and asked for ideas of which dish should they make. It went something like this….

Us: Umm….V, you volunteered to make a crown roast of lamb.

V: Oh I did? Ok, cool.

January 2019 Fam Din
Moral of the Story: 

If you want one of your Sibbies to make a laborious dish for you, get them to agree to it after you’ve given them copious amounts of wine!

January 2019 Fam Din
Lamb chops or even a single rack of lamb isn’t too complicated. But a crown is an entirely different ball game! It’s quite an undertaking.

Especially if you’re V who got crazily fixated on getting the bones as clean as possible. They had watched several tutorials that advised on doing so to achieve the most optimal appearance after roasting. Brother took it to heart and spent over an hour with several different knives cleaning them. Something that I would’ve been waaaayyy too lazy to do.

Suffice it to say that when he was done cleaning the lamb he promptly told Seester T that she owed him TWO dinners in return.

January 2019 Fam Din

While V cleaned the racks, L took charge of grinding the dried porcini and spices that they used to rub on the lamb. She also made a bright and vibrant chimichurri to go along with it. My fav!

Once the lamb was rubbed down and seared, they used twine to tie the racks into the crown shape and threw them into the oven to roast.

January 2019 Fam Din
TA DA!!!

Isn’t it spectacular??? They did such an awesome job!

Good thing they didn’t task me with cleaning those bones….

January 2019 Fam Din
Crown Roast of Porcini-Crusted Lamb with Chimichurri Sauce.

January 2019 Fam Din

And while the lamb rested, Seestrah T got working on her dish – Garlic Crab Noodles with Lump Crab

This picture does not do justice to how much crab went into this dish. You’ll just have to trust me…or watch the video and see!

January 2019 Fam Din
We actually conspired to make this dish a few weeks back while we were enjoying a big ol’ plate of garlic noodles at EMC Restaurant. Yes….we think about food while consuming food. It’s called R&D.

Often we’ll have these buttery, umami-filled garlic noodles with jumbo shrimp or whole Dungeness Crabs. But we figured, why not with lump crab? Cuts out all of the messy work.

January 2019 Fam Din
I think these two approved.

January 2019 Fam Din

And of course we needed a pic of the Capricorns with the Crowns before V carved them into chops.

January 2019 Fam Din

If you’ve never tried lamb before or are worried about gaminess, try chops that have been marinated in lots of herbs (I love the classic rosemary/garlic/lemon combo) or rubbed in dried porcini like this. Both methods reduce the gamey notes without losing the wonderful flavor that lamb has. The addition of bright sauces (like chimichurri) also assist with this.

January 2019 Fam Din
How many photobombers can you count here?

January 2019 Fam Din
With everything ready, it was time to gather at the table.

As always, someone doesn’t need to be told twice that it’s dinner time.

That face though… ❤

January 2019 Fam Din
At this point, some of you may have started wondering —

“Wait! Rare lamb chops? What did they make for their munchkins to eat?”

January 2019 Fam Din

Worry not, Friends….as you can see, they were just fine.

January 2019 Fam Din
They INHALED the chops!

Straight up, CAVE-MUNCHKIN STATUS!

January 2019 Fam Din

No princess bites here – and we love it. ❤

January 2019 Fam Din
After we finished dinner we cleared the tables and cleaned up a bit. Considering all of the dumplings, lamb, noodles and crab, we definitely needed to chill out a bit before dessert was served.

There was some giant-jenga-madness.

January 2019 Fam Din
And puppy TLC.

We also went outside to try and catch the Super Blood Moon/Total Lunar Eclipse but just as it was supposed to occur, a huge bank of clouds rolled in and covered the sky. But it didn’t stop us from belting out “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in our tone-deaf voices. Cooking is in our blood….well tuned singing is not.

January 2019 Fam Din

So we went back inside and couch potato’ed it for a bit and did a little Instagramming.

And then miraculously, our dessert stomachs were telling us IT WAS TIME!

January 2019 Fam Din
Big Seestrah N took the helm with both desserts that night.

January 2019 Fam Din

N made T a Chocolate Decadence Cake that weighed nearly the weight of Leo and Luna…combined.

T really enjoys a traditional chocolate cake that is moist and chocolatey –check and check!

January 2019 Fam Din
Nini surprisingly requested a Key Lime Pie —  it’s one of my faves so no complaints here.

Her rationale was that she was so full the last time we made it during our fam din at the beach house, that she didn’t get to have any. So her Mama Bear lovingly made up for it.

January 2019 Fam Din
And that was it!

Ok…so it was A LOT.

But we can undoubtedly say that the Capricorns were happy and full.

January 2019 Fam Din
And next time they say anything about not getting their way for their fam din, I will quickly show them to this video.

I repeat – the things we do for family ❤

_______________________________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Steamed Crab Dumplings, Pan Fried Duck Dumplings
Entree: Garlic Noodles with Lump Crab, Crown Roast of Porcini-Crusted Lamb with Chimichurri Sauce 
Dessert: Key Lime Pie, Chocolate Decadence Cake

Poultry

Our Adventures with Howard the Smoked Peking Duck

Smoked Peking Duck
Before I get started, let me caution those that get wary about seeing protein in its “whole” state because this recap will show the entire duck (sans feathers) during the cooking process. If that freaks you out, maybe skip this one and just wait until my next post.

We good?

Cool.

Smoked Peking Duck
One of my favorite things about spending a big chunk of time with the family over the holidays is that we notoriously tackle the more challenging Foodventures that we’ve previously deemed extremely laborious or too daunting to try. I’m talking about things like start-to-finish-Tamales, Xiao Long Bao and the time V created an homage to one of their favorite dishes from Flushings ChinatownSteamed Glutinous Rice with Crab in Lotus Leaves.

This past holiday break was no exception as Brother and I took a spin at making Peking Duck for the first time using his Traegar smoker. Yes, the decision was made after consuming a few bottles of wine….but aren’t those the best times to make choices?

No? Just us?

Smoked Peking Duck
Luckily, V & L had discovered a FANTASTIC tutorial by BBQ Champion, Harry Soo, on YouTube that we followed to the “t”.

Fun fact: Harry, who is behind Slap Yo Daddy BBQ, lives in Diamond Bar where 4 out of 5 of us sibbies graduated high school – Go Brahmas!

The day of our Peking Duck undertaking, we popped into 99 Ranch Market to pick up some of the essentials that started with a 6 pound whole duck. I removed its wing tips and feet with a large cleaver and then slowly used my fingers to lift and separate the skin from the meat.

Smoked Peking Duck
With Peking Duck, it’s all about spending LOTS of TLC on the skin to create a crisp and glossy finish. Even after using your fingers to loosen the skin, the pros will then use an air compressor to detach the skin so that when the duck cooks, the fat will slowly melt away.

And if the pros tell us to do so, we’re gonna try it! Particularly since V happens to have an air compressor! So he switched out the tubing and rigged a straw to be used as the nozzle — and we were then off to the races!

Easily the CRAZIEST thing I’ve ever done in the “kitchen”.  Brother and I were cracking up the entire time but it totally worked!

It’s how we bond.

Smoked Peking Duck
While V finished blowing Howard up (yes, I named him — and yes, it’s after the 80s alien duck movie), I charred the scallions and ginger as well as toasted whole star anise and coriander.

Smoked Peking Duck
I also mixed up the marinade for the cavity which included five spice powder, brown sugar, hoisin and a grilling spice mix.

Smoked Peking Duck
After we stuffed Howard with everything listed above, V stitched him up.

Smoked Peking Duck
Harry Soo calls this a “spiral stich”.

V couldn’t find a wooden skewer to use, so he whittled a wooden chopstick down. Quite industrious I thought and it definitely did the job!

Smoked Peking Duck
While Brother stitched up Howard, I brought a big pot of water to a boil that included honey, apple cider vinegar and maltose. Maltose is malt sugar and can be found in tubs as shown below at most Chinese/Asian grocery stores. Check the aisles with the honey and jams.

The maltose helps give the duck a nice sheen and color.

Smoked Peking Duck
Then it was time for Howard to take a little dip in the jacuzzi.

Okay….I admit, it looks a bit savage but just trust the process.

(ps. I did thank Howard for his sacrifice before we started everything….seemed like the right thing to do at the time.)

Smoked Peking Duck
I ladled the boiling liquid over the skin for a few minutes until it tightened and firmed up.

You don’t want to cook the duck but you want to make sure that it’s evenly coated. Again, this dish is all about LOTS of TLC for the skin.

Smoked Peking Duck
Once the duck was sufficiently scalded, it was placed on a rack over a sheet pan and went directly into the fridge (uncovered) for 3 days for the skin to dry out.

Smoked Peking Duck
Three days later (Hey–I never said this was quick), we were left with this. The skin was definitely dried and darkened in color – just what we wanted.

Smoked Peking Duck
V then fired up his smoker to 350 F degrees with soaked apple and hickory wood.

Smoked Peking Duck
He then proceeded to smoke the duck for about 70ish minutes.

Smoked Peking Duck
We were a bit concerned because it was much lighter towards the center breast portion. But miraculously in the last ten minutes or so, V said it caught up and became a beautiful dark golden hue all over.

Smoked Peking Duck
Isn’t he lovely???

Smoked Peking Duck
While Howard rested, I made up a batch of flaky scallion pancakes – the perfect accompaniment!

Smoked Peking Duck
They’re really easy to make and I can post a future recipe if y’all are interested.

I also sliced up some thin cucumbers and more scallions to go with the duck and put out some hoisin sauce.

Smoked Peking Duck
Then we called in Nini and L to do the honors of slicing up the duck. It’s a family affair after all!

Smoked Peking Duck
They say traditional Peking Duck should be sliced into over 100 pieces.

But no one’s got time for that!

Smoked Peking Duck

Anyway, I think Nini’s knife-work is just lovely. How many teenagers do you know have such master skills???

Smoked Peking Duck
And voila! Howard in all his glory (THANK YOU HOWARD!)…

The duck was really delicious….the meat was moist and the skin was lovely. And when eaten with the scallion pancakes, cukes and hoisin–totally legit!

Smoked Peking Duck
Check out this quick little recap video I put together—particularly so you can see the whole crazy air compressor situation! You can also see some snippets in my IG Stories Highlights.

All in all, I think we were pretty successful and I wouldn’t shy away from doing this again! Love our crazy Family Foodventures!

❤ BIG THANKS to Harry Soo for the recipe and tutorial. If you’re into BBQ’ing, definitely check out his YouTube channel.

Sunday Family Dinner

A Very Happy Birthday Boy

December 2018 Fam Din
I’m always curious to hear what the munchkins request for their birthday Fam Din menu…. mostly because I’m so entertained by their choices of such impressive dishes.

December 2018 Fam Din
Dishes like salmon sushi, prime rib, dumplings, crab.……

December 2018 Fam Din
We sure as heck don’t get away with making them “kids menu” items like chicken nuggets or fish sticks.

December 2018 Fam Din
Though one year, Nina did ask for chicken wings and mozzarella sticks — but even then the entree was sous vide and then grilled ribeye sandwiches!

Guess you can’t blame them…we did train their palates.

December 2018 Fam Din
So when it came to Leonidas’ birthday meal, it wasn’t too big of a surprise that he once again requested “fatty steaks” and fish tacos.

Typical 7 year old dinner, right?

December 2018 Fam Din
V and L gathered all the goodies for Leo’s two requests and set us to work.

December 2018 Fam Din
Since fish tacos were on the menu, L prepped blue corn masa that Maya and I rolled and pressed into tortillas.

December 2018 Fam Din
Brother then cooked the pressed tortillas in a cast iron skillet.

December 2018 Fam Din
They also made some awesome salsas – tomatillo and roasted guajillo.

December 2018 Fam Din

As for the fish, they chose to sear ahi that was crusted in crushed coriander and sesame seeds.

December 2018 Fam Din

The coriander imparted such a perfumed flavor to the fish – so good!

In fact, if you didn’t want to go with the tacos route, it would be awesome in a sandwich or just on top of a salad.

December 2018 Fam Din
In addition to the salsas, there were also sliced avocado and fresh corn to top the tacos with.

December 2018 Fam Din
HELLO LUV-AH!!!

December 2018 Fam Din
Seared Ahi Tacos in Homemade Blue Corn Tortillas

December 2018 Fam Din
They were ridiculous!

SO. DAMN. SCRUMPTIOUS.

December 2018 Fam Din
T and I agreed that it’s one of our favorite dishes they’ve made.

Incredibly flavor packed!

December 2018 Fam Din
After the tacos were inhaled, I went around to snap a few pics before the evening got away from us.

December 2018 Fam Din
I’m a sucker for a pretty wine bottle….isn’t that how you pick out wine, too?

December 2018 Fam Din
C and his two girls.

With both of them in college now, he and seester N are practically empty-nesters!

December 2018 Fam Din
Okay…remember that “no cell phone during Fam Din” rule?

Yeah…we let them break it after they’ve helped out.

AND as long as they’re gaming together.

I know….it’s a stretch.

December 2018 Fam Din
Then Bella will walk by them with this look on her face and they’ll stop to give her some cuddles.

Having a permanent “emo” face has its perks.

December 2018 Fam Din
When the menu was being crafted, N decided that she wanted to add paella to the mix.

December 2018 Fam Din

Her rationale was that it’s such a festive dish….

December 2018 Fam Din
…. I think it’s because she got new paella pans.

December 2018 Fam Din
But hey–I love paella so I wasn’t going to complain.

December 2018 Fam Din
Look at all of that seafood goodness piled into that pan!

December 2018 Fam Din
Her Seafood Paella was not only pretty, it was darn delicious.

December 2018 Fam Din
Leia 1000% agreed.

December 2018 Fam Din

Now back to the birthday boy’s other request – fatty steaks!

December 2018 Fam Din
Yup…the smart kiddo likes his steaks marbled and fatty — no lean filet mignon here!

December 2018 Fam Din
V dry aged these beautiful boneless ribeye steaks (uncovered) in the fridge for a few days to get rid of some moisture and intensify that beefy flavor.

He rigged the below chopsticks-in-a-tray situation to lift up the steaks which helped aerate and dry out all sides of the beef.

December 2018 Fam Din
And then it was seared in cast iron skillets to get that nice crust.

December 2018 Fam Din
While the steaks rested, I got working on the salad.

December 2018 Fam Din

Leo didn’t actually ask for a salad but we needed some veggies.

December 2018 Fam Din
I called it a Lentil-Arugula Salad …but it was so much more.

December 2018 Fam Din

It was packed with lentils, slow roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and pistachios.

Not your average salad!

December 2018 Fam Din

Then it was time to slice the steaks.

Bella could barely contain her excitement.

December 2018 Fam Din
And the same could be said for Nina.

December 2018 Fam Din
In fact, V did such a great job on the steaks that C wanted to give him a big ol’ thank you smooch!

December 2018 Fam Din
We’re definitely a family that prefers our beef on the rare to medium-rare side. Though, growing up, we were “well done” people.

THANK GOODNESS we grew out of that phase!

December 2018 Fam Din
Dry Aged Ribeye Steaks ….

Excuse me as I lick the computer screen.

December 2018 Fam Din
Our Dudes!

December 2018 Fam Din
Steaks and Paella?

COUNT ME IN!

December 2018 Fam Din
The Munchkins Table … with a little sassy look from R in the background.

December 2018 Fam Din
And the Oldies!

December 2018 Fam Din

ps. Why didn’t I get the plaid memo?

December 2018 Fam Din
Now it wouldn’t be a birthday fam din if we didn’t have a birthday dessert!

Leo’s last request that night was to have a Roblox Mint Chip Ice Cream Cake.

The kid knows what he wants, right?

December 2018 Fam Din
And guess what? T made it!

T is not a fan of baking although she is usually down to make a panna cotta or crème brûlée. So this was a big deal!

December 2018 Fam Din
L and Luna also pitched in on the cake by making the marshmallow fondant Roblox logo.

December 2018 Fam Din

Needless to say, we had a VERY happy birthday boy.

December 2018 Fam Din

And not just Leo – we ALL had an awesome time that night.

R was still feeling sassy. Must be the steaks.

December 2018 Fam Din

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LEONIDAS!!!

December 2018 Fam Din

_______________________________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Seared Ahi Tacos in Homemade Blue Corn Tortillas
Entree: Dry Aged Ribeye Steaks, Seafood Paella
Sides: Lentil-Arugula Salad
Dessert: Roblox Mint Chip Ice Cream Cake