Sunday Family Dinner

The Pacific Northwest and East Asia Blend at Family Dinner

April 2016 Fam Din
We’ve got two birthday boys in April — Lucas and Curtis! And as Family Dinner protocol dictates, when it’s your birthmonth, you call the theme for the menu.

Now with our Lucasaurus, he’s pretty laid back. If there’s something yummy and he gets ice cream at the end, well–he’s all set. So it was up to my BIL, Curtis, to give us some direction.

April 2016 Fam Din
Curtis
is all about seafood and generally loves Japanese cuisine. He mentioned that he wanted crab and the next thing I knew it, we were in crab boil planning mode. We’ve done crab Boils quite often. Remember this time? Or how about this time?

Can you blame us? Seafood boils are freaking D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!

But this time, since we wanted to use dungeness crab (they’re back in season–YAHOO!), we thought we’d take a different spin. We ditched our beloved spicy Cajun seasoning packets and headed for the Pacific Northwest for inspiration.

April 2016 Family Dinner
But first–one small order of business.

A few months ago, we decided that while we were prepping/cooking/enjoying Fam Din, everyone would stay off their cellphones or tablets and spend some QT with each other. Only exception? You could use it briefly to snap pics of food or family.

The girls even made a sign for our “docking” station that would rotate from house to house each month.

April 2016 Fam Din
So what did we do while off our phones?

We play tennis of of course! Well….Wii Sports but that’s nearly as good.

The pics below may not be as clear as I’d like but I love them. Look at their intense facial expressions.

GAME ON!

April 2016 Fam Din
Speaking of GAME ON–check out Lucasaurus. One moment he’s all “sweet face” and the next “100% slugger”.

He’s such a playah’ that he even squeezed in a fast T-Ball game with the homies before dinner was ready.

Stud.

April 2016 Fam Din
And what did my seestrahs and I do in between the cooking?

Drank some draannnnkkks of course!

Our cocktail of choice was a concoction that seester T had with her friends one night – Pomegranate Soju with Sparkling Korean Grapefruit Rice Brew.

What does a “sparkling rice brew” taste like? Think of a less sweet, more carbonated wine cooler but a gazillion times better. The whole thing was floral, fruity, and went down dangerously smooth.

April 2016 Fam Din
At this point, you may be wondering how this cocktail fits the Pacific Northwest theme.

Well…..that’s where the East Asia meets the Pacific Northwest. At least, the first time for the night.

April 2016 Fam Din
Oh–and of course we took a minute or two to snap a few pics.

April 2016 Fam Din

CHEERS!

April 2016 Fam Din
Meanwhile, Lucas had come back from his game, showered and then decided to show his uncle some of his badass roundhouse kicks.

Did I mention our little man just passed his Tae Kwon Do black back examination?

Yeah…I keep him around as my personal security these days.

April 2016 Fam Din
Then at some point throughout the shenanigans, big sis whipped out some appetizers – Shrimp Crostinis!!

April 2016 Fam Din
And then we got down to some serious cooking.

How serious?

So serious we had to break out the step stools.

#ShortPeopleProblems

April 2016 Fam Din
And then the girls started getting all kinds of silly.

Not sure if they were getting hypoglycemic from all the waiting or if it’s just their true nature.

You’re right….. it’s the Aliens.

April 2016 Fam Din

Grab the bibs, refill the drinks, plunk yourselves down in a chair because it was finally DINNER TIME!!!

April 2016 Fam Din
Sweet dungeness crab, prawns, clams, corn, new potatoes and crusty bread. The “boil” was made from crab stock, lemons, garlic and an insane amount of fennel and coriander seeds. Very, very aromatic.

Oh–and tons, and I mean TONS of garlic butter to dip it all in.

LET’S GET SEAFOOD WASTED!!!!

April 2016 Fam Din
And you bet we sure as heck did! Totally natural–birthday celebrations and all.

Though no matter how full we are, there must be dessert! And with two birthday boys, we had to have TWO desserts. One made specifically for each of boys’ favorite flavors.

April 2016 Fam Din
With Curtis, we went for the East Asian flavors because the man loves him some green tea! And after all these years, it’s become quite the challenge to make him a different green tea dessert. We’ve done Matcha Green Tea Icebox Cheesecake, Green Tea Souffles, and Matcha Green Tea Layered Cake filled with Matcha Mousse and the list goes on and on.

Hey–at least he’s consistent.

April 2016 Fam Din
So after squeezing my brain to the core, I decided to make him a Green Tea Tiramisu–also known as a Matchamisu!

I used this recipe to make the fantastically easy and light dessert. I took packaged lady finger cookies and dipped them in a mixture of honey and a strongly brewed green tea. It was then layered with a fluffy filling of whipped mascarpone cheese, egg yolks, sugar, clouds of whipped cream and of course, matcha powder.

Oh! Did I mention that I threw in a few splashes of Grand Marnier? It is a type of tiramisu after all.

April 2016 Fam Din
It was a WINNER!

Not only was it crazy easy to pull together but it was so well flavored and light. Birthday boy gave me the stamp of approval! So much in fact, that I’m making a bunch of individual sized Matchamisus for his big birthday bash this weekend.

PHEW!

Better start thinking about his next year’s green tea dessert!

April 2016 Fam Din
As for Lucas’ dessert – my nephew being MY nephew, LOVES ice cream — mint chocolate chip ice cream. And like me, if it’s isn’t green mint chip then we want nothing to do with it.

So as a nod to the “Pacific Northwest”, I made our little guy a Baked Alaska — something I’ve never attempted before. And guess what? It was really easy too!

First off, I used store bought ice cream (I know, I know–but I was short on time!) and let it set out for about 30-45 minutes to soften. I lined a large metal bowl with plastic wrap (for easy removal) and packed the ice cream in it. Then, I pressed a layer of brownie on top to form the base.

Lukey doesn’t like cake—we’re all a work in progress.

April 2016 Fam Din
I covered the top with more plastic wrap and then let the whole thing freeze for several hours. When it was about time to serve, I took the bowl out of the freezer and set it on the counter while we got to making the meringue.

In a stand mixer with the balloon whisk attachment, I whisked up 2 large egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, 1-2 pinches cream of tartar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and until stiff peaks formed.

We then inverted the bowl onto a plate, piped meringue rosettes all over and then brought out the torch.

April 2016 Fam Din
Most Baked Alaskas, well—are baked. But instead of placing the whole thing in a high heat oven, I opted to use a kitchen torch. I felt more comfortable with this method for a more even browning.

I think it all came out beautifully well. Fluffy-marshamllowly meringue, VERY green ice cream and a chocolately brownie base.

April 2016 Fam Din
It got a thumbs up from this adorable birthday boy….

And if you follow me on Instagram, then you would have saw a video of Lucas face planting into his dessert plate–on his own volition!!!

Silly boy.

April 2016 Fam Din
Another delish and FUN Family Dinner in the books!

Happy Birthmonth Curtis and Lucas!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu
Pacific Northwest – East Asian

Cocktails: Pomegranate Soju with Sparkling Korean Grapefruit Rice Brew
Appetizers: Shrimp Crostini
Entrees: Pacific Northwest Dungeness Crab Boil with Prawns, Clams, Sausage, Potatoes & Corn
Sides: Toasted Ciabatta and French Bread
Dessert: Matcha Tiramisu and Baked Alaska with Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and Brownie Base

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Sunday Family Dinner

Our Shellfish Boil and a Nguyễn Siblings Reunion

July 2015 Fam Din

There are 5 Nguyễn Siblings.

I know what you’re thinking…..

How can THAT much awesomeness exist in the world? Oh, but let me assure you…we’re real.

And although I’ve written this little blog for over 5 years now, I’m not sure if I have ever introduced each of my sibbies to you. Let’s break it down….

First up, we’ve got the eldest seester, N, who lives in Orange County. She’s a PT extraordinaire by day and expert bowler by night. N and her husband, C, have two daughters—my nieces Nina and Stephanie….and are the fur-parents to my pug niece, Princess Leia.

Now

Next up, seestrah P who lives in the foodie land of San Francisco. P is a clinical pharmacist but in her spare time she enjoys hazing her family by making them hike up and down the hills of SF….for MILES and MILES! She is the mama bear to our newest little niece – Kaelani.

Phooey

Next up, we have our brother V who resides in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. V is a hustlin’ entrepreneur by trade and a Jedi Master/random knowledge guru the other 16 hours of the day. He and his wife, L, have two little munchkins….my niece —Luna and nephew —Leonidas.

V also loves it when people misuse the word “literally”. I literally just fibbed…..he hates it.

Viet 2

Last up, we have seestrah T. T is an attorney in the LBC and is a retired 90’s hip-hop back up dancer…..ok fine–it was dance team but it’s practically the same. 80% of the time she follows a strict all-meat, all-vino, forget-the-carbs diet. She and her husband, R, also live in Orange County with their kids Maya and Lucas.

Tuong

Why all of this background info now? Because for last month’s Family Dinner…. we were ALL here!!! Yup, all 5 Nguyễn sibs with their fams in N’s backyard eating up a storm. With everyone scattered around, this doesn’t happen very often–maybe once or twice a year. So it’s definitely a special time when it can occur.

We started it all off with how fam dins always begin….grocery shopping.

We crammed the five of us into one car (which hasn’t happened for nearly 20 years!) and headed down to Little Saigon to pick up the goods. We had intended to remake our N’awlins Seafood Boil we did a couple of years ago with tons of crawfish, clams, lobstahs, etc. But even though crawdads were plentiful the week before–they were NO WHERE to be seen that particular day.

Seriously….10 stops and no fresh crawfish. Boo 😦

Nguyen Sibbies

So instead, we went with a standard Shellfish Boil theme.

And we had a little fun while picking up the groceries too.

July 2015 Fam Din

Shrimp, stone crabs, clams, locally made sausages, corn and taters.

Aren’t these clams lovely???

July 2015 Fam Din

And there were also lots and lots of mussels.

July 2015 Fam Din

So we put V and L to work cleaning the little buggers.

July 2015 Fam Din
And while they did that, C had some cuddle time with Leonidas who had just spent time in the pool with his cousins.

July 2015 Fam Din

Since it was Kaelani’s very first Family Dinner with us, we HAD to take tons of pictures with her. I mean, come on….look at that face. How could we not?

July 2015 Fam Din

This also happened to be the first weekend where all 7 little cousins were together.

And can I just say how difficult it is to get a picture where all 7 munchkins have their eyes open, aren’t squirming and are looking at the camera??

July 2015 Fam Din

This is the best one we got….and it only took 4.7396 trillion takes.

I counted.

July 2015 Fam Din

In between takes, Nina and Leo would break out in dance…..

July 2015 Fam Din

And Nini and Kaelani would be adorbs…..

July 2015 Fam Din

But after a long morning and early afternoon of shopping and prepping…it was time to get down to business. And yes, by business, I mean cocktails.

I pureed a huge watermelon with a bit of lemon and mint to make some fragrant watermelon juice for the kiddos. And then took a bunch of it to turn it into Summer Watermelon Sangria for the adults. LOTS of Summer Watermelon Sangria. 

July 2015 Fam Din

To prevent a h’angry crowd, I steamed up some of the fresh clams and Nina used them to make a few of these White Clam Pizzas for us to nosh on.

July 2015 Fam Din

And then N went to town and boiled up all the seafood for us.

SOOOO much seafood.

Yes, Friends….we got Seafood Wasted.

July 2015 Fam Din

And P loves it.

July 2015 Fam Din

Look at all that crab roe I schmeared on a baguette. Rich, decadent….perfect with a sprinkle of sea salt.

July 2015 Fam Din

After an hour of gluttonous shellfish consumption, we put the kids to work.

“Lucas and Luna–no dessert until all the dishes are done!!”

Just kidding….not kidding.

July 2015 Fam Din

For dessert, N whipped out two icebox pies. They’re quickly becoming our faves for the summer.

Here is her spiraled beauty — Peach Divinity Icebox Pie.

July 2015 Fam Din

And since there was a ton of us, she also made a Key-Lime Buttermilk Icebox Pie.

July 2015 Fam Din

We also celebrated all the July babies! N, P, bro-in-law R and Luna Bear. 

July 2015 Fam Din

With all of that sugar, the girls got a little silly…

July 2015 Fam Din

And good thing Luna was there to document it all.

Watch out Annie Leibovitz….

July 2015 Fam Din

And that folks, is how we do Family Dinner with all the sibs...Shellfish Boil style.

IMG_0158[1]

And I have to tell ya…as the youngest of the 5, it was sure nice to have all my older sibbies and their fam together again ❤

July 2015 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Summer Watermelon Sangria
Appetizers: White Clam Pizza
Entrees: Shellfish Boil
Dessert: Peach Divinity Icebox Pie and Key Lime-Buttermilk Icebox Pie

Appetizers/Small Plates · Sunday Family Dinner

N’awlins Seafood Boil for Sunday Family Dinner & Cajun Crab Puffs

Cajun Crab Puffs

In May, we began our new tradition of Sunday Family Dinners. And although each month has been wonderful, September was a milestone as it was the first dinner that all of my siblings and their families were in attendance. My brother and his family were in from NYC and my sister from SF came down….it was a full house!

Sunday Family Dinner

With all the sibs in attendance, we needed to have an epic Sunday Family Dinner. The theme for our dinner was a N’awlins inspired Seafood Boil! Crabs, Lobsters, Prawns, Crawfish, Calamari, Clams, Oysters— OH MY! We seriously threw down over 50 pounds of seafood!

Sunday Family Dinner

For dessert, my sister P, whipped up fresh beignets showered with powdered sugar and served with homemade Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream. The beignets were so beautifully tender and crispy…. and the ice cream was To Die For.

Sunday Family Dinner

My contribution for the night were these little appetizers that I was initially going to call Baby Po’Boys but have since changed the name to Cajun Crab Puffs. These little buggers were TASTY! The crab was wonderfully sweet and paired well with the spicy aioli. The tomato and scallions gave a bright, fresh note and c’mon…who doesn’t love flaky, butter puff pastry?!

Sunday Family Dinner

But as decadently delicious as everything was, it was just incredible to have everyone under one roof again. The kids were running around and they even made personalized “seafood bibs” for each of us out of trash bags. Adorable and quite useful!

And although it was a bit chaotic (c’mon, what family shinding isn’t?), it was the epitome of why we started Sunday Family Dinners in the first place.

Cajun Crab Puffs

ps. These Cajun Crab Puffs were really yummy and easy to pull together. With the holidays now in full swing, they would be a great appetizer for any party you may be having.

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Endless Prosecco and Vino
Appetizers: Cajun Crab Puffs
Entrees: Cajun Seafood Boil–Lobster, Shrimp, Crawdads, Shrimp, Shellfish
Dessert: Beignets with homemade Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

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Cajun Crab Puffs

Ingredients:

½ tablespoon minced garlic
1 large egg yolk
½ tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
6 ounces lump crab
2-3 pinches cayenne powder
1 cup cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped chives (although I used scallions)

Prepare the aioli. Add garlic, egg yolk, and lemon juice into a blender. Pulse several times until the items have blended together. Turn the blender on low and slowly stream in the olive oil. Continue to blend until all of the oil has been used and the consistency reaches a thick consistency. Blend in the hot sauce and Old Bay. Check for seasonings and adjust with kosher salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Take the sheet of puff pastry and cut squares about 1½ inch in diameter. Bake the squares for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on wire racks. Once cooled, slice each square in half.

Season the lump crab with cayenne powder.

Begin assembling the puffs. Take one half of a puff pastry square and top with a slice of tomato and a spoonful of crab. Drizzle some of the aioli on top of the crab and then garnish with chives. Top with the other half of the puff pastry square. Repeat with the remaining ingredients and serve.