Homemade Soup Dumplings & Tonkotsu Ramen–Because We’re Insane…

Nov 2015 Fam Din

It’s been two weeks since Thanksgiving and I think I’ve finally recovered from the madness.

Just in time for 15 full days of holiday craziness with my family.

Pray for me.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

At the close of Thanksgiving and 15+ hours of shopping, we held our monthly Family Dinner. When we had chatted about potential menu options a few weeks prior, my seesters and I agreed that we wanted dishes that were low-key and stress-free since we would have been so wiped out from Thanksgiving.

So obviously, we chose a menu that took hours and hours of preparation, that needed to be started days in advance and was highly laborious.

Apparently our strategy was slightly flawed.

We never learn…..

But as always, we started with some cocktails….. Pomegranate-Raspberry Saketinis!

I muddled a bunch of fresh raspberries with pomegranates in a pitcher. Added sake, a few glugs of vodka, several splashes of Cointreau, some fresh lime juice, pomegranate juice and then topped it off with a bit of pomegranate-berry soda.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Then came the appetizers – Xiao Long Bao or “Shanghai Soup Dumplings”. Normally I would say that dumplings aren’t typically too difficult to make. In fact, I usually love making them and find the folding process rather relaxing.

Not these buggers! We’re all still traumatized!

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Xiao Long Bao are a Shanghainese dumpling with a very thin skin/wrapper. They’re filled with a variety of ground proteins and an aspic that once steamed, becomes soupy–thus the name Soup Dumplings! Dumplings and Soup all in one? BRILLIANT!

Seester T took the lead with these and man, did they take some prep work! Using The Woks of Life recipe, she started with the aspic. Vegans beware because essentially, it’s a natural meat gelatin.

Yes…as in J-E-L-L-O.

Pork bones and other porky bits are thrown into a pot with water and several aromatics. Everything simmers for a few hours and then is strained and chilled.

Voila—Aspic!

Nov 2015 Fam DinShe then made a ground pork filling and threw in some shrimp because surf and turf is always a good idea. Once done, the aspic was cubed up and folded into the filling.

Next, we enlisted our niece Nini to help out with the assembly. Seestrah made the dough according to The Woks of Life’s recipe and used my pasta roller to make thin sheets for the dumpling wrappers.

Remember when I said laborious? It definitely was!

Hand cranking out the sheets so that they were paper thin and then cutting them into perfect circles with a biscuit cutter. Nini then meticulously filled and folded the dumplings to ensure they were all sealed up tightly so that none of the soup would run out during the steaming process. It took about 3 hours for us to make the wrappers and fill them all. Granted, it was our very first time but I will never, NEVER take it for granted next time I have Xiao Long Bao. Those folks can make them in lighting speed!

The XLB had good flavor and paired well with the black vinegar sauce–plus they were fun to eat! If we do ever make them again (and let’s be honest, it’ll be a very LONG time in the future), I’d like to play around with the dough. It was pretty good but I think it could be even thinner, especially on the top where it all purses together so that it’s less dense and chewy.

But heck–for our first time, it was awesome!

Nov 2015 Fam DinFor the main dish, we chose Tonkotsu Ramen where we made everything but the menma and kamboko from scratch.  And if you’re keeping tally, that means the Tonkotsu Broth, Chasu, Ajitsuke Tamago, Mayu and Ramen Noodles—ALL HOMEMADE!

By chance do you recall when I said we wanted a low-fuss Family Dinner?

We’re insane.

A few days prior to Fam Din, Seestrah N started on the Tonkotsu broth because it needs hours upon hours of simmering.  She went with Marc’s route from No Recipe and pretty much followed it to the T.

On the day of Fam Din, she made the Chasu –braised pork belly from Nami at Just One Cookbook. She also threw in an extra few pieces of pork shoulder for some added protein. And let me tell you….that chasu was beautiful, unctuous, pork heaven.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

The night before Fam Din, I prepped Nami’s Ajitsuke Tamago (shoyu eggs) since it’s best to allow them to marinate overnight. They were really easy to make and would be great just atop some steamed rice.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

In addition to the Chasu and Ajitsuke Tamago, we topped our ramen bowls with:

  • Toasted Nori (seaweed) Strips
  • Menma (marinated bamboo shoots)
  • Kamboko (fish cake)
  • Kikurage (fresh wood ear mushrooms)
  • Scallions

I also made Mayu which is a black garlic oil that was drizzled on top of our bowls of ramen.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Now let’s talk a bit about my adventure with the homemade ramen noodles.

I spend a lot and I mean A LOT of time in the kitchen. As such, I’m pretty comfortable with baking breads, working with yeast dough and making pastas. I don’t have the pasta attachment for my KitchenAid but I’ve gotten by pretty well with my hand crank pasta roller over the years. So when I was nominated (was this because I’m the youngest!?) to make the noodles, I just went with it.

I did tons and tons of research and went with Marc’s ramen noodles as well. He was detailed in account and his pictures really captured the process. If you decide to give this recipe a try, note that he was not lying that this dough is extremely dry. You’ll likely want to keep adding water but just go with it and press it all together until it forms a ball. Trust me, it eventually does.

But here’s where I start to kick myself for attempting this method without an electric pasta machine/KitchenAid attachment. Before allowing the dough to rest for several hours, you have to run it through your pasta roller a few times so that it forms smooth rectangular sheets. Sounds easy right? Well I’m sure it would have been had I not used a hand crank roller with a dry dough. It was crumbling everywhere!

I was sweating bullets trying to shove the crumbling dough into the roller….Add the fact that I tripled the recipe and now you’ll have an idea why my biceps were on fire!

Nov 2015 Fam Din

When it came time to cut them into noodles, a piece of me cried inside knowing that my arms were going to get another work out since I would need to pass the dough through the roller several more times. Another wrench was thrown into the situation when the attachment blade that cuts the noodles got stuck. I ended up hand-cutting the noodles which wasn’t ideal since I couldn’t get it as thin as I had wanted to—but it got the job done.

Moral of the story? If you’re not a pro, use a KitchenAid pasta attachment or similar thing-a-ma-bob if you make fresh ramen noodles.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

But once assembled, we were all pretty darn proud of ourselves.

It tasted LEGIT! Like, TOO-LEGIT-TO-QUIT!

Every component had a role and although laborious, had a distinct purpose to the ramen.

Nov 2015 Fam DinAnd just like the Xiao Long Bao, I will never, never underestimate or take for granted the folks who make my ramen.

Heck–they’re freaking amazing in my book.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

After polishing off our noodles and a bit of kitchen clean up, we actually took off for a little more shopping. Why? Who knows….we were delirious.

But when we came home, we tucked right into dessert.

I had made a simple Matcha Mousse-Chocolate Tart. The base was made out of crushed Oreo Cookies and filled with a fluffy matcha mousse. We’re green tea monsters, so a light and matcha-filled dessert suited us just fine.

Nov 2015 Fam DinWas dinner easy and low maintenance?

HECK NO!

Did I perhaps lose a few months off my life from the stress?

WOULDN’T DOUBT IT!

Did my sis say she needed therapy because of the XLB?

YOU BET!

But were we happy with how things turned out over all?

ABSOLUTELY!

It was a true and deep Labor of Love.

And the cherry on top?

My Trojans whooped the Bruins that day and brought back home the Victory Bell!! Aren’t my kiddos adorable in their gear????❤

Total Proud Auntie.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Oh–in case you’re wondering, we went to Target and World Market after dinner/before dessert.

What did I pick up?

A few more additions to my ever growing Nutcracker collection. Priorities people, priorities.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Pomegranate-Raspberry Sake-tinis
Appetizers: Pork & Shrimp Xiao Long Bao {Soup Dumplings}
Entrees: Tonkotsu Ramen with Chasu, Shoyu Egg, Menma, Kamaboko, Kikurage
Dessert: Matcha Mousse and Chocolate Tart

Spicy Shrimp and Sausage Pasta — Surf & Turf Made Easy!

Spicy Shrimp & Sausage Pasta
Now let me admit this to you.

Some girls love flowers delivered to their door and some gals love chocolate.

Me?

You’d have my attention with a nice bottle of vino or meat.🙂

Yes, you read that correctly.

 

DSC_0047

So when our friends at Farmer John sent over a box of their latest Cheese & Wine Flavor Smoked Sausage, I squealed with joy.

Seriously…squealed.

Not only because I was so excited to try it out but we coincidentally were having our monthly Sunday Family Dinner just a few days after. Complete divine intervention since a part of our menu required for us to bust out our beloved habachi grills.

DSC_0090

It was perfect since our proteins mainly consisted of seafood (calamari, prawns, shellfish, lobster) and sausage was a much welcomed addition.

We sliced a few links up and threw them on the habachi which imparted even more of a smoky flavor. The sausage itself turned out to be a tad on the sweeter side (likely because of the wine) but it paired well with the salty-briny seafood.

So when it came time for me to use the sausage in a dish, I wanted to make sure to balance out the flavors.

Cue in spices, herbs and tomatoes.

 

Spicy Shrimp & Sausage Pasta

I played around with a few ideas and decided to use the browned sausage with a heavily spiced shrimp in a tomato sauce.

I finished the whole sha-bang with a mountain of fresh herbs and tossed it with linguine — a pasta that can hold up to a hearty sauce.

 

Spicy Shrimp & Sausage Pasta

It. Was. Delish.

Don’t believe me?

Well…shame on you!

Because it was.

Fo’ reals!

Spicy Shrimp & Sausage Pasta

The entire dish was then showered with a mound of freshly shaven parmesan cheese….and then I paused…..

Because when you make happy things in your kitchen, it deserves a moment of silence…

Followed by a serious dance-it-out session and a swig of chianti…or whatever you’re sipping on.

It’s completely mathematically sound.

Spicy Shrimp & Sausage Pasta

And yes, all of the flavors balanced out perfectly.

The salty, sweet sausage paired well with the spicy shrimp. The acidic tomato sauce with its aromatics added the much needed punch to the dish. And the cheese—well, the cheese added love.

Obvi.

Much thanks again to our friends at Farmer John – we love ya!

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Spicy Shrimp and Sausage Pasta
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

½ pound shrimp, cleaned and deveined
½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning (or other Cajun spice blend)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic salt
kosher salt
olive oil
1 pound smoked sausage (I used Farmer John® Wine and Cheese Sausages), sliced
¼ cup sliced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup white wine
1 28-ounce can crushed Roma tomatoes
5-6 fresh thyme sprigs
½ tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 pound dried linguine
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
1 cup parmesan (shaven, grated, etc.)

In a bowl, mix the shrimp with the Old Bay Seasoning, cayenne pepper, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, garlic salt, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Set aside.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons oil in a heavy bottom, deep skillet (or pot) to medium. Add the sausage slices and brown on both sides. Toss in the shrimp and cook until they turn pink – approximately 2 minutes. Remove the contents to a clean bowl and set aside.

Add the shallots to the skillet and cook for a minute before adding the garlic. Cook for a minute and stir in red pepper flakes. Add tomato paste and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat to high and pour the wine into the skillet. Use a wooden spoon and scrape the bottom of the skillet to release all the brown bits. Allow the wine to come to a boil and reduce the liquid for 2-3 minutes on the high heat.

Add tomatoes with its juices and bring to a boil. Once it comes to temperature, lower the heat to medium-low. Use the wooden spoon to crush and break apart any large pieces of tomatoes. Stir in the thyme and oregano and simmer the sauce, partially covered for 20 minutes.

While the sauce cooks, boil the linguine for approximately 10-12 minutes in heavily salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve ¼ cup of the starchy water that the pasta was cooked in.

Stir the shrimp and sausage into the simmered tomato sauce. Toss in the cooked linguine, coating the pasta well. If you want a looser based sauce, add a tablespoon at a time of the pasta water until you reach your desired consistency. Season with additional kosher salt and black pepper as needed.

Plate the pasta and sprinkle each dish with parsley and the freshly shaved parmesan.

Enjoy!

 

 **Disclosure: I did receive products from Farmer John, but as always, my opinions are my own.**

Slow Cooker Kālua Pig

Kālua Pig

 

It’s ALOHA FRIDAY and what better way to kick off the weekend with some island grindz? And it sure doesn’t get any easier or more ono-licious than Kālua Pig made in a Crock Pot!

 

Sure, you could go traditional and dig an imu in your backyard to channel the Hawaiian spirit. And heck – I would definitely be the first to give you mad props if you did! But as my family have continually denied my pleas to dig a large hole in their yards, I’ve had to settle for conventional methods and use slow cookers.

Kālua Pig

It really is a fool proof method of creating delicious Kālua Pig since you throw everything into the pot and then twiddle your thumbs for the next 10 hours. But the secret is the addition of banana leaves and liquid smoke which truly impart the authentic flavors an imu provides.

I like to serve my Kālua Pig over sticky rice with mac salad or sandwiched in my beloved Kings Hawaiian rolls with a tangy slaw. However you choose to serve it, your loved ones will adore you for channeling the flavors of the islands onto their plates.

Alohas!!!

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Slow Cooker Kālua Pig

Ingredients:

5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
sea salt (Hawaiian sea salt if possible)
black pepper
3-4 banana leaves
½ small white onion, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 dried bay leaves
4-5 dashes liquid smoke
Using paper towels, dry off the pork and generously season with the sea salt and black pepper.

Line the bottom of the slow cooker with banana leaves, setting aside one to top off the pork. Place the seasoned pork shoulder in the cooker and top with the onions, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. Wrap the remaining banana leaf over the top and cover the slow cooker. Cook the pork on low heat for 10 – 12 hours.*

Once done, carefully remove the pork from the slow cooker and place on a platter or large dish. Using two forks, shred the meat into pieces.

Skim and discard the fat and oil from the liquids left in the slow cooker. Pour the liquid over the shredded pork and stir in the liquid smoke. Taste and season with additional sea salt as needed.

Serve over rice or my favorite Kings Hawaiian sweet rolls.

*You can also cook the pork over high heat for about 5-6 hours but I prefer the texture of the low and slow method.

(Isaan) Pork Larb Gai – Thai Minced Pork Salad

Pork Larb Gai

Larb (also often spelled as laap or laab) has been one of my favorite Thai dishes for a long time. It essentially translates to “minced meat salad” and can be made from a variety of different proteins – pork, beef, chicken, fish, duck, etc.

The word larb means “to chop up” in Thai. That’s right folks–authentic larb aficionados use a cleaver to chop/mince their proteins until they reach the perfect consistency. But truthfully, I’m a tad lazy and use pre-ground pork/chicken/turkey.

Andy Ricker, chef and author of Pok Pok does a beautiful job narrating his adventures of Thai cuisine and does an infinitely superior job of explaining the nuances of larb than I ever could. In a nutshell, there are two different schools of larb — the Northern Thai version and Northeastern Thai (Isaan) version. I gravitate towards the Isaan style that is heavily laden with citrus and toasted rice powder. The Northern style also uses various proteins and herbs but often includes pork/beef blood.

Pork Larb

I’m obsessed with Isaan-style larb because it’s truly a flavor explosion (I’m so cheesy). It’s incredibly savory with the garlic, shallots, fish sauce……bright and aromatic from the tons of citrus & fresh herbs…..and rather “earthy” from the toasted rice powder. Whether you eat it with sticky rice or as lettuce wraps, larb has multiple layers of texture, especially when you take intermittent bites of fresh cucumber slices, cabbage or fresh chiles.

My version isn’t totally authentic but it definitely is my homage to the original and can be whipped up in about 20 minutes. Not bad at all when you need a quick bite and its lightness is perfect for a warm summer meal.

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(Isaan) Pork Larb Gai – Thai Minced Pork Salad

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon warm water
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
1 tablespoon minced Thai chiles, divided
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 pound ground pork
2 scallions, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon toasted rice powder*
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly torn
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, roughly torn
accoutrements: extra fresh herbs, lime wedges, cabbage, lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, steamed rice

In a 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 1/2 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 shallots, garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add 1/4 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 pork.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the pork around the wok/skillet while breaking it apart to a crumbled consistency. Cook the pork until it is no longer pink, approximately 3-4 minutes. Stir in the remaining fish sauce and scallions.

Remove the wok/skillet from the heat. Toss in the rice powder, remaining lime juice, red onions, mint, cilantro, and basil. Stir in a few spoonfuls of the sauce to taste. Plate the larb with extra fresh herbs, whole chiles, lime wedges, sliced cucumbers, lettuce and cabbage. Serve 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.

Korean Feast for Sunday Family Dinner + Happy Birthday Nina!

August 2013 Korean Family Dinner

My eldest niece, Nina, turns 15 today *gulp*

Don’t ask me how it happened but within a blink of the eye, our super chubby little baby turned into a beautiful and intelligent young woman. The bday gal requested Korean for last week’s Sunday Family Dinner and we willingly obliged.

We LOVE Korean food! And as I’ve shared before, our mom went through an extensive phase where she cooked all types of Korean dishes to dazzle her guests.

August 2013 Family Dinner

As always, we cooked way too much food. But what can we say, we wanted a “little” bit of everything and leftovers are a good thing in our book. A HUGE thanks to Emily Kim, author and founder of Maanchi, whose recipes were heavily used in our menu that night.

As for the menu…..

What’s a Korean meal without some type of Kimchi? Eldest seester started a week before our dinner and prepared a ridiculous amount of Kimchi—and I mean a TON OF KIMCHI! Though I’m not complaining as we each got to take a jar home.

Kimchi

We had crispy, Grilled Pork Belly served with an acidic, vinegar based dipping sauce…….

Grilled Pork Belly

A huge pot of bubbling Soondubu Jjigae – Soft Tofu Stew with lots of seafood……

Soondubu Jjigae - Soft Tofu Stew

Plates of Haemul Pajeon – Seafood Pancake……….

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

You can see that the there’s definitely more “filling” than batter in these pancakes.

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

And there was a huge pan of Ddeokbokki – Spicy Rice Cakes which is one of my personal faves. Mimi (my oldest friend/ex-roomie) used to make this all of the time for me in grad school and it’s carboliciously, delicious.

Ddeokbokki - Spicy Rice Cakes

We also had Galbijjim – Braised Beef Short Ribs that just fell off the bone. Slightly sweet and incredibly tender. Man, my mouth is watering just remember this goodness…..

Galbijjim - Braised Beef Short Ribs

And there was some Kimchi Bokkeumbap – Kimchi Fried Rice.

Kimchi Bokkeumbap

And last, for dessert, Patbingsu – shaved ice. We adorned ours with sweet red beans, fresh fruits, mochi, tapioca and a drizzle of condensed milk.

Patbingsu - Shaved Ice

And that’s how we roll–Korean style!

Happy 15th Birthday Nina-love!!!! May this year bring you success in school (and tennis), laughter, happiness and adventures (in moderation, of course🙂 )

xoxo!

August 2013 Family Dinner

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Watermelon Soju-tinis
Appetizers: Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake), Homemade Kimchi, Grilled Pork Belly, Soondubu Jjigae 
Entrees: Ddeokbokki, Galbijjim, Kimchi Bokkeumbap
Dessert: Patbingsu, Red Velvet Cake

Cuban Family Dinner + Mojito Cheesecake

Mojito Cheesecake

We’ve been on a Latin and Spanish kick with our Sunday Family Dinner themes. But since eldest Seester and her fam were soon headed to Miami for an extended vacay, what better menu for June’s Fam-Din than Cubano?

Plantains

As usual, we started off our dinner prep with a few (okay, more than “a few”) bright and refreshing cocktails. Mojitos for the adults and virgin Valencia Orange-Mojitos for the kiddos.

Mojitos

Eldest Seester, N, kicked off dinner with a duo of Empanada appetizers. She made the dough out of flour, salt, baking powder, butter, sugar, eggs, and cream cheese. It was surprising to see how easy the dough came together but it was truly outstanding! The cream cheese made the Empanadas incredibly flaky and rich. A total keeper!

She filled half of the Empanadas with roasted chicken, mushrooms, cumin and other layered aromatics. The other half was stuffed with a savory Ground Beef mixture.

I could nosh on these all day long. You could definitely make a double batch and freeze them to bake off on a rainy day. Perfect little party apps.

Empanadas

Next came my homage to the beloved Porto’s Bakery. If you’re from Southern California, chances are, you are well acquainted with the renown Cuban Bakery and Cafe. Not only do they make delicious Cuban inspired sweets such as Guava & Cheese Pastries, Tres Leche, & Flan but they also are the creators of some of my family members’ favorite cake–the Triple Chocolate Mouse Cake.

You can also satisfy your savory Cuban cravings at Porto’s by ordering their sandwiches (including a Cubano), soups, or my personal favorite– Papas Rellenas. Essentially, they’re a crispy mashed potato ball filled with a ground beef mixture of onions, peppers, and tons of spices.

We made them a tad smaller than the original version but other than that, I was quite pleased with the copycat recipe and thought it was pretty spot on. I’ll be posting a step by step on it soon but you can find the recipe I used here.

Cuban Potato Balls (Papas Rellenas)

And what’s a traditional Cuban meal without plantains?

My sis and niece made these Tostones by twice-frying plantains. They took slices of plantains that were about 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch thick and fried them until they were golden. Afterwards, they took a cleaver and smashed them to about 1/4 of inch. After being pan fried for the second time, they seasoned them with course sea salt and served them with a peppery garlic dipping sauce.

It’s incredible how starchy plantains are and, in my opinion, are more like potatoes than bananas.

Tostones

Seester, T, made a huge and I mean HUGE batch of slow cooked Frijoles Negro.

They had a wonderful, rich flavor to them and were thick…almost stew-like. She also made rice but I totally blew it and didn’t take a picture of it.

#fail

Frijoles Negro

And for the main course, Cuban Roast Pork with Mojo Sauce.

HOLY aromatic!

The moment we walked into T’s house, we were engulfed with the delicious scent of the pork roasting in the oven. She ended up doing a mash up of several different recipes she found but at the base of it, the marinade included tons of garlic, fresh orange and lime juices, fresh herbs and some spices. The Mojo was a pureed mixture of garlic, cilantro, serrano peppers, citrus juice, and olive oil.

It was surprising how much sweetness the fresh orange juice added but it was because of it that allowed the roast to become rich and caramelized.

Total winner.

Cuban Roast Pork with Mojo Sauce

And finally, dessert. We had a two types that night (as if we weren’t gluttonous enough already).

The first were Sweet Empanadas using the same pastry dough as the savory version. This time, N took whole Guava and cooked them down with sugar and lime until it broke down into a thick, almost compote texture. She then pressed it through a fine sieve to get a floral Guava paste. Seester and the kids stuffed the Sweet Empanadas with a few spoonfuls of the guava paste and a dollup of cream cheese. YUM!

But again, I blew it and didn’t get any good pictures of them.

#failedagain

DOH!

I promise I’ll be better next time!

Mojito Cheesecake

The second dessert of the night was my riff on a Mojito inspired Cheesecake.

What makes this a Mojito Cheesecake?

I started off by making “mint sugar” by pulsing plain ol’ granulated sugar with a few handfuls of fresh mint leaves. The end results in a bright and herbaceous sugar. Perfect for baking like in my Mojito Cookies or in drinks.

Mojito Cheesecake

The filling is flavored with mint sugar, tons of fresh lime juice, lime zest and lime extract. If the kiddos weren’t partaking, I would have also added a few splashes of light rum to the batter as well as the whipped cream. Granted the baking would cook off any alcohol but I didn’t think the munchkins would like flavor.

And since we were already sipping on Mojitos, I thought we could skip on the extra booze. I can practice restraint sometimes.🙂

Bellies full, to-go bags packed…..I’d say it was another SUCCESSFUL Family Dinner!

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Mojito
Appetizers: Chicken Empanada, Beef Empanada, Papas Rellenas
Entrees: Cuban Pork Roast with Mojo, Frijoles Negro, Tostones, Rice
Dessert: Mojito Cheesecake

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Mojito Cheesecake
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

Mint Sugar:
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons mint sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup mint sugar
1/8 teaspoon cornstarch
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime zest
1½ teaspoon Key Lime extract
1 ounce light rum, optional

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons mint sugar
1 tablespoons fresh lime zest
½ ounce light rum, optional

Preheat oven to 325 ˚F.

Prepare the mint sugar. In a food processor, pulse the granulated sugar and mint leaves until the leaves have been ground down and combined with the sugar.

Prepare the crust. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, mint sugar and butter until moistened and resembles the texture of wet sand. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan and press crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about one inch up the sides. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and cool to room temperature.

Prepare the filling. Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the cream cheese and sour cream until its light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the mint sugar and cornstarch. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lime juice, lime extract, zest, and rum (optional) until well combined. Pour the filling over the cooled crust. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven with a pan half full of boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is set. Turn off the oven and allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door propped open for about 30 minutes. (To prop the oven door, I use a wooden handled spoon to keep it ajar a few inches). Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Allow the cake to cool for an additional 30 minutes. Wrap well with plastic film and foil. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Carefully remove the sides of the pan by running a hot knife around the outside of the cake.

When you are ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream. Using a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on high until it just holds stiff peaks. Slowly sprinkle in the mint sugar until you reach a thick consistency. Add in the zest, rum (optional) and whip until combined.

Pipe the whipped cream on top of the cheesecake and garnish with additional lime slices and mint leaves.

Pork & Shrimp Gyoza and Our Kid Chefs

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

One of the neatest things about our family dinners is seeing how accomplished my neices have become in the kitchen. We got them involved quite young with baking, creating their own pizzas, and so forth—and I think that it’s really helped them become more at ease with cooking.

Fast forward to today where Nina (14 years old) and Nini (13 years old) have developed their own specialities in the kitchen. Nina can whip up a wonderful dressing and a to die for chocolate cake. Nini is a whiz at shucking oysters, cupcake decorating, and quite recently has become a dumpling-making pro.

Nini and Nina

With the endless things that had to be done at our last family dinner, I needed some help finishing the Gyozas. I showed Nini only once how to fold a Gyoza and the next thing I knew it, she had completed an entire tray of dumplings for me–and they were perfect!

Gyozas are the Japanese version of delish panfried dumplings. They can be filled with a variety of proteins and are wrapped with thin dumpling skins made from flour, salt, and boiling water. Here’s how I make them:

Start off by creating the filling. I like to do a Vietnamese-Japanese fusion and mix ground pork, roughly chopped shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, fish sauce, soy and a variety of other aromatics and spices. The shrimp adds a slight sweetness and great texture. Once the filling has been thoroughly mixed, it’s time to assemble the gyozas.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Place one gyoza wrapper on a flat surface. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center. Be careful to not over stuff your dumplings or else the filling will burst from the seams.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Pick up the gyoza and fold it in half.

Um…I really should have gotten a manicure before I took these pics.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Start pleating the top layer of the gyoza wrapper. After each pleat, fold, and firmly press the edges together, ensuring that that the gyoza is well sealed.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Place the gyoza on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with either flour or cornstarch to prevent them from sticking. Cover the sheet with a dish towel while you finish making the rest of the gyozas.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

After the gyozas have been pan fried, serve them up with a soy-vinegar sauce or my preferred sauce– ponzu.

Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

These gyozas have a wonderful flavor and all of your loved ones will gobble them up. And if given the chance, get the kids involved and exposed to the cooking process. They’ll have a lot of fun and take pride that they are eating what they helped to make.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, like our aunties, we can retire from cooking duty soon so that the kiddos can take over. Now if we could only get them as excited to do the dishes.

One step at a time.🙂

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Pork and Shrimp Gyozas
Makes approximately 40 dumplings

Ingredients:

¼ pound shrimp, shelled and devined
½ pound ground pork
1 heaping cup finely chopped cabbage
1 heaping cup finely chopped shiitake mushrooms
½ cup finely diced scallions
¼ cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1½ tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, additional (for frying)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 package gyoza wrappers (50 count)
vegetable oil (for frying)
water (for frying)
ponzu sauce, or your choice of dipping sauces
chives

Chop the shrimp into small pieces and add them to a large bowl. Add in the pork, cabbage, mushrooms, scallions, shallots, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, sake, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Using your cleans hands, mix the filling until thoroughly combined.

To make the gyozas, lay one gyoza wrapper on a flat surface. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center. Pick up the gyoza and fold it in half. Pleat – fold – and press the edges together, ensuring that you seal the gyoza tightly. Place the gyoza on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch or lined with parchment paper to avoid them sticking to the pan. Repeat until all of the filling has been used.

Heat a large frying pan to medium heat with vegetable oil. Place a layer of the gyozas in the pan. Fry the gyozas for 1-2 minutes until the bottoms are golden. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of water and immediately place the lid on the pan. Lower the heat to medium-low and allow the gyozas to steam until almost all of the water has evaporated.

Remove the lid, turn the heat back up to medium and lightly drizzle sesame oil around the inner edge of the pan. Continue cooking until remaining water has evaporated. Plate and garnish with chives or scallions. Serve immediately with ponzu sauce.