Saigon Cheesesteaks for the WIN-NGUYEN!!

Saigon Cheesesteaks
Sometimes I like to do C-R-A-Z-Y things…..

You know – kooky things like mashing up Philly Cheesesteaks with the comforting Vietnamese Thịt Bò Xào.

Say Whaaat???? I know, but just hear me out.

Thịt Bò Xào is a quick beef stir-fry we used to eat weekly growing up and we all loved it. It was hearty, garlicky, and well–beefy! The added bonus is the wonderfully rich sauce it created that we use to spoon over our rice bowls.

So freaking good.

Saigon Cheesesteaks
The other night I was about to make up a pan of Thịt Bò Xào when I caught a glance of leftover hoagie rolls sitting on the counter. And that’s when I got struck with a bit of genius! Or madness!

Sometimes it’s a blurry line with those two characteristics.

Why not throw the Thịt Bò Xào inside a roll and top it off with cheesy goodness?

Ain’t nothing bad about that!

Saigon Cheesesteaks

So I rolled the dice and gave it try!

I stir fried some ribeye beef and veggies, added a few slices of pepper jack cheese, stuffed it inside the hoagie and topped it with some bright cilantro leaves.  And no surprise here–it was AWESOME!! The beef had the same type of richness like the beloved Philly Cheesesteaks but the Asian flavors combined with that luscious sauce I had mentioned was a definite game changer!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the Philly Cheesesteak because I’m one of its biggest fans! But this is a fun twist and I do love variety!

And since this weekend kicks off College Football Season (FINALLY!)–it gives me the perfect excuse to whip up these Saigon Cheesesteaks again as I cheer on my beloved❤ Trojans as they take on Crimson Tide!

Fight On, ‘SC!

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Saigon Cheesesteaks
Makes 2

Ingredients:

½ pound thinly sliced ribeye beef
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ yellow onion, sliced
5 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons Maggi or Soy Sauce, more to taste
4 slices cheese (pepper jack, provolone, Swiss, etc.)
2 hoagie/sub rolls, sliced and toasted
red chili flakes
fresh cilantro to garnish

 

In a small bowl, mix together the beef, garlic, cornstarch, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and black pepper. Set aside.

Heat the remaining vegetable oil and butter in a large wok or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Swirl the pan around until the butter melts. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until both have softened and become lightly browned, approximately 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Push the items to the side of your wok/skillet (or remove to a plate if your wok/skillet is not large enough) and add the beef. Turn the heat up to medium-high and quickly stir fry the beef for 1-2 minutes or until lightly brown. This should not take a long time since the beef is so thin.  Mix the onion/tomato/mushroom mixture together with the beef. Stir in Maggi (to taste) and additional cracked black pepper if desired. Pull the pan off the heat.

Keeping the mixture in the pan, divide it into two. Place the cheese slices over each of the portions and cover with a lid until the cheese melts. Open each roll and add half the meat mixture inside. Sprinkle the tops with red chili flakes and cilantro.

Serve immediately.

Kale, Bacon and Cheese Strata

Bacon and Kale Strata
Y’all hear that bell ringing?

That’s right– SCHOOL’S BACK IN SESSION!!!

It’s the time of year in many households where everyone is just wishing they had a few extra minutes in the morning before they dash out the door for the day.

So for this month, I worked with our friends over at Safest Choice® Eggs to create this deliciously satisfying “make the night before” dish that will fuel up your loved ones for an entire day of work, school, and any shenanigans they may find themselves in.

Bacon and Kale Strata

Breakfast Stratas are essentially a savory bread pudding. It’s the perfect way to use up all of your stale bread and any other fixings you may have tucked away in the corner of your fridge. And since the custard base needs time to soak up in all the nooks and crannies of the bread, it’s the ideal thing to prep the night before only to be thrown in the oven while you’re getting ready in the morning.

This time around, I chose to use sauteed kale and combination of cheeses to flavor the strata and of course– bacon. Because the smell of bacon is the sure fire trick to motivate people out of bed in the morning! I also tossed in some leftover diced potatoes because I like the texture and body it gives to the dish. But if you prefer to use bread only, feel free to leave it out.

Added bonus? This Kale, Bacon and Cheese Strata is such a stunner, you can definitely serve it up at a brunch gathering alongside fresh fruit, juices, coffee and mimosas. Guaranteed hit!

Head on over to Safest Choice® Eggs  to read my Strata post this month and while you’re at it, click here for the recipe.

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Thai Inspired Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai

Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai
I must admit that I’ve been incredibly lazy in the kitchen these past few weeks. It’s been really warm and humid (for San Diego standards, that is) and the last thing I want to do is hang out over the hot stove for long periods of time.

And don’t even get me started about my utter disdain for dishes!

Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai
So my “cooking” of late has really consisted of compiling ingredients (salads or sandwiches), charcuterie boards (AMEN!), or quick prep dishes such as stir-frys.

Because…you know…. EVERYTHING STIR-FRY and all.

Total shameless plug.

Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai
But all self-promotion aside, stir-fry dishes are a total legit way to get something scrumptious in your belly with minimal cooking time. The majority of your efforts primarily go towards chopping the ingredients— easy peasy!

Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai
This Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai is a slight variation of my Pork Larb Gai which is a Thai minced pork salad. For the protein I went with a surf and turf approach as I love the flavor combo. For the ground chicken, you can go with breast meat but I prefer the flavor of dark meat. And if you want a really light approach, sub the chicken with ground turkey breast.

Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai

Whichever protein you select, you’ll really love Larb Gai –-especially during the summer months. The dish is light yet fulfilling and is punched up with TONS of flavor from the fresh lime juice, bright herbs and savory sauce. I often have it over steamed rice but when I’m feeling extra lazy or when it’s warm out, I use it as filling for lettuce wraps. Either way, you’ll love it.

Enjoy!

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Thai Inspired Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon warm water
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
1 teaspoon minced Thai chiles, divided
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced red onions or shallots
4-5 kaffir lime leaves, sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 pound ground chicken
½ pound peeled shrimp, cleaned and deveined
2 scallions, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon ground toasted rice powder*
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly torn
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, roughly torn

In a small bowl, create the sauce by whisking together the sugar and warm water until dissolved. Add in 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons fish sauce and ½ teaspoon minced chiles (more to taste). Set the sauce aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the minced onions, kaffir lime leaves, garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add ½ teaspoon minced chiles (more to taste), red chili flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Increase the heat to medium-high and add in the ground chicken.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the chicken around the wok/skillet while breaking it apart to a crumbled consistency. Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes and then add the shrimp Stir-fry for an additional 2 minutes until the shrimp becomes pink and opaque. Stir in the remaining fish sauce and scallions.

Remove the wok/skillet from the heat. Toss in the rice powder, remaining lime juice, sliced red onions, mint leaves, cilantro leaves, and Thai basil. Stir in a few spoonfuls of the sauce to taste. Plate the larb with extra fresh herbs, whole chiles, lime wedges, sliced cucumbers, and lettuce. Serve immediately with either steamed rice or whole lettuce leaves for wraps. The remaining sauce can be served alongside as a dipping sauce.

*If you cannot find pre-ground toasted rice powder, you can easily make your own. Toast uncooked jasmine rice in a skillet over low heat until golden brown. Once cooled, transfer the toasted rice into a spice grinder and grind until you get a fine powder.

Passion Fruit Margaritas

July 2016 Fam Din

I adore margaritas….blended or on the rocks with salt–of course! Classic margs? Fruit flavored margs? YES– thank you!

But please, no pre-made margarita mixes. More times than not, they are overly sweet and leave you with an artificial aftertaste. BLEH! And when you consider that the classic margarita is so simple and a GAJILLION times more tasty, the extra bit of effort is totally worth it.

And the key? Fresh lime juice. Not bottled, not concentrate–fresh.

July 2016 Fam Din
If you happen to be lucky enough to own an electric citrus juicer –than you’ve really got no excuse! For our last Family Dinner, I made a few pitchers of these summery Passion Fruit Margaritas. I broke out seester’s electric juicer and whipped out a quart of fresh lime juice in under 10 minutes. But even without the juicer, I still use fresh limes—-it truly, truly makes all the difference in the world!

These Passion Fruit Margaritas were a delish take on the classic marg. The fruit’s natural tartness paired beautifully with the limes and added a fun tropical spin.

Oh! And here’s a tip— if you find limes on sale, get a whole bunch and juice them. The juice freezes beautifully and you can have fresh margs all year long.

CHEERS!

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Passion Fruit Margaritas
Makes 1 pitcher

Ingredients:

2 cups premium silver tequila
1 cup Grand Marnier or triple sec
1 cup fresh lime juice
½ cup simple syrup
2 cups passion fruit juice

Combine and stir all ingredients in a large pitcher. To serve, rim glasses with salt. Add ice and fill the glasses with margaritas. Garnish with additional lime wedges and CHEERS!

Toasted Israeli Couscous with Roasted Mushrooms Medley

July 2016 Fam Din
At our last Family Dinner, we fired up a bunch of lamb racks and chops per my brother-in-law’s bday request. I initially was going to make a side dish that had potatoes in it but it seemed kind of heavy for such a warm day.

I brainstormed with seester and decided to make some Israeli couscous. The pearls are larger than standard couscous and when toasted –like with risotto — it takes on a nutty flavor with a great texture.

July 2016 Fam Din
To flavor the couscous, I combined it with a medley of roasted mushrooms. I chose a combo of portabello, trumpets and beech ‘shrooms but anything goes. I also added dried porcinis as they have an earthy flavor and used the liquid that I reconstituted them in to deepen the profile.

To finish it off, I added some fresh herbs and lemon zest to brighten up the dish.

July 2016 Fam Din
The couscous paired quite well with the lamb providing just enough substance without being too heavy.

And since it’s delicious at room temperature, it would be a great dish to bring to a potluck or summer picnic event.❤

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Toasted Israeli Couscous with Roasted Mushrooms Medley
Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup hot water
3 cups sliced mixed mushrooms (I used portabello, trumpets, and beech)
olive oil, divided
kosher salt, divided
black pepper, divided
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
10 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
½ cup white onion, finely diced
2 cups dried Israeli couscous
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups vegetable broth, heated
1 tablespoon minced parsley
½ tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon truffle oil or quality extra virgin olive oil

Combine the dried porcini with the hot water in a small bowl. Allow the mushrooms to soften and reconstitute for about 30 minutes. Remove the porcini from the bowl, squeezing out the excess liquid. Reserve the porcini liquid and set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the fresh mushrooms with 3 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Pull the leaves from half the thyme sprigs and mix into the mushrooms. Spread the mushrooms on a lightly greased baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes until they have browned. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a small pot. Add the white onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until they become translucent. Add the couscous—stir and cook until the pearls become toasted and golden brown. Stir in the garlic and cook for about 20-30 seconds before adding in the liquid that the porcini was reconstituted in–careful not to add in the mushroom grit/sand. Pour in the heated vegetable broth, add the remaining thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook until all the liquid has absorbed—about 10-15 minutes.

Once the couscous is done, take it off the heat and discard the thyme sprigs. Use a fork to fluff the couscous pearls and fold in the roasted mushrooms, porcinis, parsley, and lemon zest. Drizzle in the truffle oil and taste. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.

The couscous can be served immediately or at room temperature.

Swimming Spot Prawns & Fiery Lamb – It’s Fam Din Time!

July Fam Din Collage
July is another month with lots of birthdays in the fam. Seester N, Seester P, Bro-in-law R, Niece Luna and about a GAZILLION of cousins!  Ok, maybe we’re just a tad shy of a gazillion but really, not by much.

So for this month, N and R got to pick the menu for Fam Din–and boy, did they choose a doozy!

July 2016 Fam Din
I’m typically assigned the task of making the themed cocktails for dinner —which is totally fine because this gal truly does love her some adult beverages! Shocking, I know.

Since it was so hot and humid, I was leaning towards some type of margarita. I gave N a few options and she gave the thumbs on passion fruit. So I broke out the citrus juicer and ended up with about a quart of lime juice. THANK GOODNESS for electric citrus juicers because without it, I’d still be sitting in my seestrah’s kitchen squeezing limes. Foh-evah.

Once done, I combined the lime juice with freshly made simple syrup, triple sec, passion fruit juice and of course, tequila. YASSSS!!! I really enjoyed the tartness from both the passion fruit and limes–definitely making them again.

July 2016 Fam Din
Now say helloooooo to my little friend…..the sweet Spot Prawn.

These little buggers were seestrah’s choice for an appetizer and were swimming around the tank at the store when we picked them up earlier that day.

By the way, if you’re squeamish, just quickly scroll through to the next section.

July 2016 Fam Din

We gobbled the Spot Prawns two ways…..

First—sashimi style. We dipped them in just a bit of soy and wasabi and they were incredible! Truly sweet and fresh.

July 2016 Fam Din
Then we took the prawn heads and tossed them in a rice flour–you can also use cornstarch or tempura flour. My niece Nini deep fried them until they were golden and quickly sprinkled sea salt over them once they were out of the hot oil.

They were divine!! Perfectly crunchy and we still got a little bit of the prawn flesh in conjunction to the money bite. You know—the bite that’s filled with the tomalley-like goodness. Utterly rich, decadent and full of prawn flavor.

And seriously, if you’re freaked out by this, I kind of feel sorry for you but just pass yours right over to me because I will DEVOUR them!

July 2016 Fam Din
We also picked up some Octopus to nosh on. N sliced the tentacle super thin so that it was tender and easier to eat. Nini then made the perfect dipping sauce which had things like ponzu, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, scallions, paprika and anything else she could find in the pantry.

July 2016 Fam Din
As for the birthday boy, he wanted Lamb. Seester T, marinated lamb racks and loin chops overnight with a bunch of herbs, garlic and citrus zest.

When it was time for entrees, she had the boys grill them up and they nailed it.

July 2016 Fam Din

Initially, they were a bit concerned about the char due to the flare ups they had since the lamb was a bit fatty. But once the meat was rested, we sliced in and found a perfect medium-rare to medium.

Yeah, I guess we’ll keep those boys around after all.

July 2016 Fam Din
Seester fixed up a Mint Pesto to dunk the Lamb into.

July 2016 Fam Din
As for sides, we charred up some fresh Artichokes and N made a light Gremolata to drizzle over them to brighten things up.

July 2016 Fam Din
As for my side dish contribution, I made this Toasted Israeli Couscous with Roasted Wild Mushrooms. Super easy and low fuss to make—plus, it’s perfect at room temp. I’ll be sharing the recipe with y’all in a few days.

July 2016 Fam Din
And then it was dessert time!!

Since we had two birthday babies, they each got their own dessert. I know, it was something I started back in April for Lucas and bro in law C and now I can’t stop.

R said he wanted something chocolate and peanut butter. After mulling over it a bit, I decided to make a batch of NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies (that he L-O-V-E-S) and sandwiched chocolate & peanut butter cup ice cream in between.

It was a total mess to eat but who cares when it’s a WINNER likes this!

July 2016 Fam Din
For Seestrah, it was much harder to decide what to make. She doesn’t really have a favorite dessert and likes an array of things. Since we already had something chocolate for R, I gave her several fruit options and she chose this Roasted Peach Napoleon.

There are essentially 3 components to this dessert which I was able to make earlier in the day and enlisted Nina to help assemble it. First up, I made the pastry cream which came together quite quickly. While the cream chilled, I roasted up the peaches and then baked off the puff pastry sheets.

Nina then layered it all together and we dug in!

Ok, technically there were candles, singing, wishes, and some presents before we dug in—but you get the picture.

July 2016 Fam Din
All in all, I think it was a delicious way to celebrate N and R!

Definitely stick around because August’s Dinner will have all 5 Nguyen Siblings + kids and fam in attendance and we’ll be cooking up the spirit of Aloha with a Hawaiian Lu’au spread! ❤

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Passion Fruit Margaritas
Appetizers: Sashimi Style Spot Prawns, Crispy Fried Spot Prawns Head, Octopus Sashimi
Entrees: Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint Pesto
Sides: Charred Artichokes with Gremolata, Toasted Israeli Couscous with Roasted Wild Mushrooms
Dessert: Roasted Peach Napoleon, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

Burrata Caprese & Prosciutto Skillet Pizza

Burrata Caprese Skillet Pizza

It’s Monday y’all….

And yes, my struggle is real today…. yawn……

So to cope with those Monday blues, I’ve got something that will wake you up and help kick start your week – Burrata Caprese & Prosciutto Skillet Pizza.

Hellooooooo Beautiful!

Burrata Caprese Skillet Pizza

It’s the final installment to my summer ode to Burrata Caprese while using my favorite way to make pizzas at home–in a cast iron skillet! The cast iron allows the pizza dough to puff up and get wonderfully crisp and slightly charred—mimicking a pizza oven. And it cooks the pizza in just a couple of minutes —WINNING!

As for the Burrata Caprese — you know how much I adore it. My other two posts featuring the combo highlighted the burrata in its fresh form. This time, I opted to add it to the pizza dough before broiling it so that it became ooey-gooey melted and creamy.

Trust me, it was the best decision I ever made! Or at the very least, the best decision I made that day.❤

 

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Burrata Caprese & Prosciutto Skillet Pizza
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 heaping cup diced tomatoes
2 garlic cloves minced, divided
2-3 pinches kosher salt
2-3 pinches black pepper
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
extra virgin olive oil, divided
5 large fresh basil leaves, julienned – more to garnish
5 ounces fresh pizza dough, rested and at room temperature
all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground corn meal
3 ounces fresh burrata cheese, torn into pieces
½ tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
1 slice prosciutto, torn into pieces

In a small bowl, mix together the tomatoes, half of the garlic, kosher salt, black pepper, red chili flakes, ½ tablespoon olive oil, and julienne basil. Set aside.

Turn on the oven broiler and adjust one of the racks to the top of the oven to rest directly under the broiler. Place a seasoned cast iron skillet (10-12 inches in diameter) directly under the broiler for 8-10 minutes. It may begin to smoke but you need the skillet to be screaming hot.

While the skillet is heating, roll out the pizza dough onto a floured surface–you’ll want it a tad smaller than the width of your skillet. If you have a pizza peal, sprinkle it with cornmeal and transfer the pizza dough onto it. If not, you can also use a wooden cutting board.

Brush the olive oil over the dough and sprinkle the remaining garlic over it. Quickly top with burrata cheese. Once the skillet has heated for the appropriate length of time, quickly and CAREFULLY slide the pizza into the skillet. Replace the skillet so it sits directly underneath the broiler.

Close the oven door and allow the pizza to cook for about 60 seconds. Open the oven door and rotate the skillet 180 degrees. Close the door and allow another 60-90 seconds underneath the broiler. Once the crust is slightly charred and cheese has melted, CAREFULLY remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a rack for 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese, prosciutto, tomato mixture and remaining basil leaves. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, slice up and enjoy!