Flat Hand-Pulled Noodles with Chili Oil Vinaigrette

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This recipe hails from American Test Kitchen, my most beloved cooking show. Their post for Biang Biang Mian came across my Instagram feed and I’m pretty sure I drooled on my phone. I’ve had hand-pulled noodles and I’ve seen them being made but I have never attempted them myself. And I won’t lie, making fresh pasta isn’t something I do. But recently Shawna has been making it, no tools but her own hands and it’s so delicious. I think there is a time and place for the fresh noodles and this is definitely the time.
The Chili oil has a number of ingredients but I promise the end result is worth it. Something you would order in the Sichuan province of China. Spicy and best paired with a Tsingtao or another light beer. I beg you to try it.

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Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients for Dough

2⅓ cups  bread flour

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup  water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Ingredients for Chili Vinaigrette

10 to 20 bird chiles, ground fine

½ cup vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin

1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns

½ cinnamon stick

1 star anise pod

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons black vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

4 quarts water

1 tablespoon salt

12 fresh cilantro sprigs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

6 scallions, sliced thin on bias

 Directions For the Dough

Whisk flour and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Add water and oil. Fit stand mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed until all flour is moistened, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is smooth and satiny, 10 to 12 minutes. (Alternatively, mix dough in food processor, following instructions above.) Transfer dough to counter, knead for 30 seconds, and shape into 9-inch log. Wrap log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 48 hours.

Directions For the Chili Vinaigrette: Place chiles in large heatproof bowl. Place fine-mesh strainer over bowl and set aside. Combine vegetable oil, garlic, ginger, peppercorns, cinnamon, and star anise pod in small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until sizzling. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer until garlic and ginger are slightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Pour through strainer into bowl with chiles; discard solids in strainer. Stir chili oil to combine and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar until combined; set aside.

Unwrap dough, transfer to lightly oiled counter, and, using bench scraper or knife, divide into 6 equal pieces (each 1½ inches wide). Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, bring water and salt to boil in large pot; reduce heat to low and cover to keep hot. Working with 1 piece at a time, oil both sides of dough and flatten into 7 by 3-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to edge of counter. With both hands, gently grasp short ends of dough. Stretch dough and slap against counter until noodle is 32 to 36 inches long (noodle will be between 1/16 and 1/8-inch-thick). (If dough is hard to stretch to this length or is snapping back significantly, set aside on counter and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, continue stretching remaining portions of dough.) Place noodle on counter. Pinch center of noodle with forefingers and thumbs of both hands and pull apart with even pressure in both directions to rip seam in middle of noodle and create 1 continuous loop. Cut loop to create 2 equal-length noodles. Set noodles aside on lightly oiled counter (do not let noodles touch) and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat stretching and cutting with remaining pieces of dough.

Return water to boil over high heat. Add half of noodles to water and cook, stirring occasionally, until noodles float and turn chewy-tender, 45 to 60 seconds. Using wire skimmer, transfer noodles to bowl with chili vinaigrette; toss to combine. Return water to boil and repeat with remaining noodles. Divide noodles among individual bowls, top with cilantro and scallions, and serve.

Thai BBQ Ribs

I was watching the news the other morning and the segment was about a local whiskey, a peanut butter whiskey actually. Apparently Dave Grohl gave them a shoutout at a concert this summer and now sales are booming. They were chatting about all the different drinks they make but their chef was also busy whipping up dishes featuring the libation. When the segment ended the camera panned to a plate of ribs and that got me thinking about dinner. My mind went straight to Satay with a peanut sauce, which I love, and how I have never thought to pair that with ribs. Luckily I keep my Asian pantry staples plentiful so that left me with a very short shopping list. I knew what ingredients I wanted but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to execute the cooking. After some recipe searching I landed on this one here, and I was not disappointed.

*note* I did not have a lime juice for this so I substituted lemon juice + Rice vinegar

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Recipe adapted from *Half baked Harvest

Ingredients for Ribs

3-5 pounds baby back ribs

1 1/2 cups sweet Thai chili sauce

3/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons Red Curry Paste

2 teaspoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons fresh ginger grated

2 cloves garlic minced or grated

crushed red pepper to taste

Ingredients for BBQ Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter warmed/melted

1/4 cup sweet Thai chili sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon Mirin

2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste

1 tablespoon Chinese 5 spice

1 lime juice

1/4 cup cilantro chopped

Directions

Place the ribs in a large baking dish or roasting pan.
In a large 4 cup glass measuring cup or bowl combine the sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, red curry paste, fish sauce, ginger, garlic and pepper. Whisk to combine and then pour the marinade over the ribs. Place the ribs in the fridge for at least 4 hours to as long as overnight, turning then once or twice if possible to make sure they get fully covered in the marinade.
Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 3-6 hours (if you go the full six hours bake them at 275 degrees F.) or until very tender. Try to baste the ribs once or twice during cooking.
Meanwhile make the BBQ sauce.
In a large glass measuring cup or bowl whisk together the soy sauce, ketchup, warm peanut butter, sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar, Mirin, red curry paste, Chinese 5 spice, lime juice and cilantro. If the sauce is not mixing place it in the microwave or over the stove and warm until everything is melted together. Add water to thin if needed.
When the ribs are done cooking preheat the grill to medium high heat and grease the grates. Remove the ribs from the baking dish. Slather the ribs in the Peanut BBQ sauce and grill 3-5 minutes per side or until lightly charred. Be careful flipping the ribs as the will be very tender.
Serve with chopped peanuts and cilantro, with extra sauce on the side. Enjoy.

The Girls and a Recipe

I feel like I should rename the blog “Disappearing Act.” It’s not that I want to neglect it, its just “gestures at everything”. Life is busy and when time slows down we find ourselves with a new Netflix show or out at a new dive bar. Priorities people.

Since we’ve last talked Kaili turned a year older…8 YEARS OLD! Can you believe it?

She had a choice between having a birthday party or going to Great Wolf Lodge, she chose the latter. We drove up early on a Monday morning to stop at Crystal Cove for brunch and a game of tag with the waves.

 

With full bellies we headed to check in at the hotel. Great Wolf is an indoor water resort that the girls just love.

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We stayed two nights and despite a few health hiccups, they had a good time. They were  asking when we were going back before we even left.

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On Kaili’s actual birthday I made her a rainbow Unicorn cake per her request.

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We had a fun filled Memorial day weekend. Spending a day at SeaWorld and a couple of days in OC. The girls did it all and we were wiped OUT come Monday night.

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While the kids were away Shawna and I took an adult weekend out to where the weather was warm because this May grey-June gloom bullshit is really getting to us.

We returned sun kissed and ended up at the San Diego Margarita Festival. It was a really good but crowded time. I could put this on the calendar for next year. Join us!

 

The one thing that always remains the same is my love for cooking. A lot of good food has come out of my new(ish) kitchen.

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Lemon Meringue Pie
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Fresh Fettuccini
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Roasted Gaspacho
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Whole Roasted Snapper
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Panzanella Salad

One of the best recipes I have come across is this one, Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Sauce. The only difference that was made was we didn’t add the noodles to the sauce, instead it was poured over the top, and the tomatoes were left out. It was absolutely delicious and I’m pretty sure I could eat it every week, why are scallops so good?

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Cookbook Review

I love flipping through cookbooks and marking all of the recipes that I want to make some day. But what about the recipes that don’t automatically appeal to you, they get left out. You may be missing a really delicious meal.

A few of us started a cookbook club. What better way to hear about recipes you might not have ever made? So much better than reading random reviews, you actually know the people who make it and if they say it’s good, it probably is.

We started with Milk Street by Christopher Kimball. He used to host the cooking shows Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen. A great cooking show that tests a recipe a hundred different ways until they come up with the best possible outcome.

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I started off with the Vietnamese Caramel Fish and Herb and Pistachio couscous. Both definite do-overs.

I have never prepared fish this way, it’s poached in a aromatic caramel sauce and topped with jalapeños and cilantro.  The Couscous was really good. It’s a make ahead dish and gets better the longer it sits, perfect for a party. I would suggest not tossing in the pistachios if it’s made far ahead in advance, reserve for the last minute.

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I went on to make the Spanish Pork Bites (pinches Morunos)

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Crispy, tender and flavorful tidbits of pork, it was good, no leftovers good.

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Along with that I made the Brussels Sprouts with anchovies and garlic. I am convinced you can add those two ingredients to anything and it will be good. The anchovies take on another flavor once cooked. The sprouts were charred and crispy and the honey adds a hint of sweetness. I will make these again but next time try roasting them in the oven opposed to on the stove.

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I was happy with this cookbook and have a couple more recipes saved on my “to-make” list.

Seared Scallops with Ajo Blanco

Rummaging through my freezer, desperately needing to make some sense of the mess it had become, I found the leftover Ajo Blanco I made. I decided to freeze what I had left of it for a rainy and day that day had arrived, although it wasn’t actually raining.

The first time I had Ajo Blanco it was with charred octopus so I thought it could also serve as a nice blanket for sea scallops to sit on.

*If you are using a frozen soup or sauce of any kind, once it’s defrosted pop it back into a blender or food processor to bring it back to it’s original consistency.

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Ingredients (Serves 2)

Ajo Blanco 

10 Sea scallops

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher salt

Season both sides of the scallops with salt. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat until nearly smoking, 1½ to 2 minutes. Add  2 teaspoons of olive oil and the scallops and cook until golden brown, about 3½ minutes. Turn the scallops over and cook on the other side until golden brown, about 3½ minutes longer. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside.

Spoon 4 tablespoons of the ajo blanco in two shallow bowls or plates. top with  scallops, drizzle with olive oil and serve.

 

 

 

Chicago

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I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Chicago, my first time! The day of travel would have been just fine if the plane actually took off and arrived at the gate when it was supposed to, however we had a lot of down time on the tarmac. Dinner reservations were at 8:45 that night so we went straight to the room and back out into the city in search of the restaurant.

Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard was a must do. Unfortunately her flagship restaurant The Girl and the Goat was booked out until November so we decided to try her Asian restaurant Duck Duck Goat. “Reasonably authentic Chinese Food” is what the waiters say when they greet you at the table. The place was buzzing for a late Thursday evening. The space was tight and the volume loud. Sitting almost too close for comfort next to other diners, we ordered off of the “chef recommended” menu. I only have a couple pictures since the lighting wasn’t doing me any favors.

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We started off with the wood fired duck hearts.  The were tender, smoky and served on a creamy bed of garlic aioli. Delicious.

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Along with those we ordered the duck spring rolls, braised pork belly and ended with the   char siu bao. The bao dough was probably the best I have ever had, so light and fluffy. It was all really good. Happy with our decision we moseyed on closer to the hotel to meet a friend for a drink.

The next day we walked out on the river and hopped in a water taxi toward Willis tower.

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Not wanting to wait in line for the sky view we kept on walking to Union Station where I had my first Chicago dog.

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I’ll come clean, I don’t really like hot dogs. I felt that I had to try it and see what all the fuss was about. Eh, it tasted like a hot dog that had too much stuff on it. I won’t need another one.

The rain started to arrive as we were along the riverwalk so we tucked into a winery for a couple glasses of wine. I really dig the vibe of the river front, I can see spending warm afternoons out there listening to music and people watching.

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Cold and ready for a hot shower we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner numero dos.

Reservations weren’t until later that evening so we started at a speakeasy bar called Brando’s. Remembering I am too old for crowds, we weren’t sure if we would be able to stand the elbow to elbow nowhere to sit room. However the happy hour prices and delicious dirty martinis swayed us to fight the sporadic nudges of the flannel wearing strangers. Then a barstool opened up and we made ourselves comfortable until dinner.

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Rick Bayless, he’s my favorite . He was who graced the screens of my early culinary classes and whom I grew to admire years after. Eating at his restaurant Frontera Grill was the first thing that came to my mind when I decided to finally see Chicago. I wish I had a better experience to share but it was just very underwhelming.

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We started with pork tamales and tamarind margaritas. Both were just OK. I’ve had much better in San Diego and our waiter was less than gracious.

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The entrees were molé enchiladas and a fish dish. The fish was better than the enchiladas. If you want really really good Molé Enchiladas head to El Comal or JV’s tacos in San Diego. Can’t be beat.

The best thing we had were probably the plantains, they could have stood to cook a little longer but dipped in crema and molé they were pretty darn good.

 

Unsatisfied we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel.

I had the next day solo, so after lounging in bed with multiple cups of coffee I ventured out. I walked down to Navy Pier and had a mango smoothie along the water. I had some company stop by.

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I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the afternoon so I just started walking along the lake.

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So unreal, just breathtaking! Are we sure this is a lake?

I found myself not far from Lincoln park, I decided that would be my destination and a place to stop for lunch.

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I found a little restaurant outside the Lincoln Park zoo that suited my needs. A glass of rosé and a sandwich. The wind picked up and my toes were going numb, yes I wore flip flops, duh!

I also found that cabs were much easier than ride shares out there, do you guys agree?

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Back at the hotel I poured a big glass of Syrah and submerged myself in a piping hot bath. We were invited to an event at the House of Blues later that night, so with time to kill we went to the hotel bar for a bite to eat and a drink.

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The short trip ended with an open bar, live music, late night pizza and amazing company!

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It was a perfect little getaway. I love being in a new place, it’s one of my most favorite things. Like any place, I could have used a couple more days. If I ever get back there, I have a list ready!