Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cooking "En Papillote"

We had a look at the suggested recipes and decided we could do two and make up a pretty good meal. Asparagus to start, Scallops to finish. Even for two recipes, not much of a shopping list, and although our preferred Scallop place is not our preferred everything else place we just went for one stop shopping - also it was too crazy hot for leaving groceries in the car while making other stops.

We didn't have, and continue to forget to purchase, some butchers' twine so we used the traditional wrapping method for each recipe - didn't realize it was an arts & crafts project when we made this decision...

Slow Roasted Asparagus

Is it bad that it took us longer to cut the paper into the recommended heart shape than it did to trim the asparagus, chop the mushrooms and pile everything up? Possibly the easiest recipe to follow, ever? If we had have needed a pot the recipe would have just said 'everybody in the pot'...

The wrapping bit progressed as advertised, but we did draw on a bit of knowledge from seeing various TV chefs doing this. Pretty sure we would have succeeded anyway because it was so simple.

Into the oven for a bit longer than we would have liked (and knew in advance because our print of the recipe was with a bit lacking due to a depleted black cartridge), and back to the TV. We did come back a bit early so we could start the next course and hopefully have that one coming out of the oven about the same time we finished eating this one.


Tasty, perhaps a little salty from the Prosciutto, but not unpleasant too salty. Asparagus cooked up just right. Perhaps we needed a bit more tarragon or even a small squeeze of lime from the next dish once out of the oven, but all was consumed as is. Some nice juices collected in the bottom, but not really sure what to do with them as we didn't bring any sopping materials.

Tarragon Lime Bay Scallops over Angel Hair Pasta

We didn't do much pre-reading of this recipe because the printing was even worse than the first, but good enough to get the ingredients. So we almost missed the bit about pre-cooking the pasta and totally missed the bit about sauteing the scallops until we had a nice (red) reprint of the recipe.

Once everything is cooked, into the paper and wrap using the previously successful method (including the arts & crafts project of cutting the hearts).


Tasty. But... we don't understand the purpose of the parchment and back into the oven. Yes it finished the last bit of cooking of the pasta and scallops, but by this time everything has spent time together getting tossed around in a bowl. A little more cooking before joining in the bowl would have given the same result, perhaps?

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



Grabbed up a bottle of bubbles we had tucked away and it had a nice acidity we thought worked out with both dishes. Actually, we would have been happy had the bottle been twice as big and we could continue after the food part of the meal was done - oh well...

We did have a nice dinner, and it was easy to put together and easy to eat so we're pretty sure we got the results we should have so that's a good thing. Ultimately, nothing complicated here but nothing Eureka about it either so we probably won't do it again unless we are given a recipe that is screaming "make me, even though I'm a parcel".


Our July 2012 Daring Cooks’ host was Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called “Cooking En Papillote” which is French and translates to “cooking in parchment”.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


We've made our own pasta in the past (say that 72 times quickly...) with pretty good results, mostly for ravioli if that's relevant, so we had no reservations lining up for this challenge. We certainly thought it worth while to get a slightly different pasta recipe under our belts if nothing else, but as always expect more tidbits will join our kitchen knowledge from the overall experience.

Off to the store for a very easy gathering process - everything in one place, no decisions to be made other than trying to figure out what tomato puree really meant when no cans in the store (or other stores we found out on later normal weekly grocery runs) are labeled as such. We're pretty sure the ones called tomato sauce are a match.

Cannelloni di Carne

Egg Pasta

Not exactly sure what we did here, but we ended up making two batches because we only got 5 sheets out of the first batch and 6 from the second. The first batch was very wet and needed extra flour to make it look like what we've seen before on our previous pasta making exploits.

Hindsight strongly suggests that we probably got the flour measuring incorrect first time around (but the security camera failed and we can't roll back the tape...) because even with the extra flour we had just a small batch. It did roll out nicely - apart from the bit where we misfed it through the roller... But that was easily and quickly mended

The second time around the dough appeared to come together as expected - woo hoo. But, it actually was a little dry causing troubles getting it rolled out. It did eventually end up looking mostly like the first batch of sheets, but there may have been some cursing by one of the parties involved.

Béchamel Sauce

Actually no shopping required for this part - just open the pantry and reach in...

We've made various versions of this over the years with varying degrees of failuresuccess. This one came together as advertised. And, not a lump to be seen. The hot milk must be the secret? We'll dig this recipe out next time and ignore any others provided...

Meat Filling

Nothing complicated. Open the wine and pour a couple of glasses for the chefs - we felt like drinking a Riesling during the cooking process, so Riesling helped us out in the cooking part too.

Follow the directions.

The only small (ok, medium) boo boo we made, and we didn't know we'd made until the assembly part of the process was that we used all the béchamel sauce here and didn't save any. When measured out it was so close to the amount asked (assuming that you use the correct measuring cup - it seems we used our 2 cup measure thinking it was 1 cup which is a bit of an odd thing to do and a lot silly...), we just used the left over bit in the pot figuring it could do no harm. It didn't, but technically it ended up in the wrong place. Oh well...

Good thing our 2 batches of pasta ended up with more sheets than the recipe called for. This created a lot of filling (and we don't think it was all because of the béchamel), so much that we had left overs for lunch the next day (sans pasta).

Tomato Sauce

So easy, you get to make it at the same time as the Meat Filling...

Bring it all together...

We were perhaps a bit more cautious than we needed to be, only putting two sheets of pasta into the water at a time. As there was no great rush, apparently, to get everything assembled, arranged, covered and in the oven this seemed the right thing to do. Not a single sheet was damaged...

We did, however, not even go close to putting 1/8 of the mixture per sheet. Even if we had have gone 1/11 to match our number of sheets we would've ended up more pizza like as there was no chance they would ever close up. As it turns out, we probably could have made another of our 5 / 6 piece batch of pasta and still had left overs (again, we're not completely blaming the béchamel incident of '12).

They rolled up nicely enough (with the 'correct' amount of filling), stuck together nicely enough to get them into the dish (with the tomato sauce already on the bottom) and as luck would have it, the perfect width to go from edge to edge. It could be argued we squeezed one too many into the dish, but the volume of arguing would vary as to whether it was just you eating on the couch, or having friends at the dining table.

Cover them up with the last of the tomato sauce and the last of the béchamel sauce and into the oven. Back to the front of the TV, open our official dinner wine, and wait patiently. We actually hate our broiler, so just left them in the oven a few extra minutes but seeing we didn't have the white sauce to brown up we doubt any harm was done.


The decision to squeeze in that last one made it a little hard to get them out as there was some over / under squishing that had occurred and bound a couple together in ways not intended by their makers. No harm done to taste, nor pre-serving presentation but a little bit mixed up coming out of the pan.

Recipes & Destructions Instructions


The whole process took a bit longer than expected, but the result was worth the effort. Not a put together after work type meal for us, but one we could do again on the weekend and one we could certainly serve up for friends (with less squeezing in of the last one...)

We reached in to our cellar and grabbed up a bottle of something Italian. Although not specifically recommended to pair with a Pasta Dish, Grimaldi Barbera D'Alba was the winner. And a fine winner it was..

Yummy (and easier to get out of the pan) leftovers too! Not hard to argue the filling was a good leftover, but the whole package a much better one.


Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Messieurs-Dames: Boeuf Bourguignon!

Julia would not be proud (well perhaps she would of the effort, but certainly not the result), let's explain why...

We actually were quite pleased to see this come up.  Just about every food show you could ever hope to watch / read / participate in will at some time (if they haven't already) whip up a batch of Boeuf based on the 'classic' Julia Child recipe so it seemed logical that we should add it to our one day list.

Shopping was a breeze with all but the wine from one store.  Leaving shopping to the morning of the big day we were unable to locate a Burgundy in either of the two closest options we had so we thought a Pinot Noir out of California would be a fair swap.  We were going to grab up 2 bottles, one for cooking, one for dining but seeing we couldn't find one we went to our 'Cellar' for the dining part, staying in France with a Côtes du Rhône.

Boeuf Bourguignon

OK, off we go... Boil the bacon (officially simmer, but...) which is something new to us. Done, but not exactly sure why. We went with removing some of the fat, but didn't see all that much left behind. No harm done, we did as asked.

The next few steps are about getting the beef browned off. Nothing complicated, and with a bit of team work it all went pretty quickly. Then in go the vegetables, that was easy. Get the meat back in and sprinkle with flour. OK, the goal was not to sprinkle, but we got the flour incorporated with everything looking as we expected.

We just want the record to show that we noted the 30ml variance in our bottle of wine v the amount required by the recipe and yes, we did drink the variance. We appreciate this thoughtful planning by the recipe builder, but we had to go a bit less in the pot because working as a team we neededwanted 30ml each - actually it's never hard to go way past 30ml. We're just say'n...

With glass in hand, a whole bunch of other stuff goes in the pot and this is where things probably started to go wrong. First we used all the beef stock, not realizing we needed some a few steps (and a couple of hours) later to keep the onions (did you know it feels like it takes 20 to 25 minutes to peel each pearl type onion? - pesky things. But they were worth the effort!) company, but this boo-boo may have made things less bad in the end. It's kind of fun to tip a whole(ish) bottle of wine into a pot and after a firm stir our pot looked more or less the same as the picture provided. Great. Lid on, oven, here we come...

Obviously, it's us doing the cooking so fingers should be pointed our way, but we're pointing a finger back at the recipe for not giving us a temperature to reduce the oven to. Our choice of temperature only avoided a complete inedible result because we went with the lesser option of 3 hours (we started a bit late and knew we'd be hungry...) rather than the 4 and used up all the beef stock as noted above. After an hour the house really started to smell nice and we didn't even think twice about what was going on, even when we returned to the kitchen to do the onions (we used Vegetable Stock in lieu of Beef thanks to the Pantry) and mushrooms - both of which we were very pleased with how they turned out. So, with the chirping of the timer our excitement to finish the dish didn't last long. Our juice was all but gone, things were sticking to the pot on all sides and not just the bottom, and there was a crustiness to almost everything that was probably only minutes away from being classified as burnt.

It still smelled great, so we added in the mushrooms and onions - keep going, or order out - gave it a stir in which just about every piece of meat broke up as we 'released' it from the grip of the pot. As we were pulling out the bay leaf, we also did a quick hunt for the bacon rinds and removed them too, even though the recipe was silent on what to do with them. We think removing was better?

We were now done, as we had no juice to worry about skimming for unwanted fat. At least we got to eat (and drink!) a little sooner...
Clearly a pot of well done meat not cooked to its proper best. As the juice departed, more and more of the meat would have been left high and dry and therefore roasting, rather than braising. We're pretty sure this was the reason for a good deal of stringiness.

We got great flavors, we think, but nothing we'd be all that excited about serving up to friends. Our wine selection worked out just fine with what we ended up with, but probably would have been better with a better final result.

Recipes & Destructions Instructions


Tasty, no doubt. Ugly, even less doubt. Missing the sauce, completely. Oh well...

We'd give it another go, perhaps doing the whole thing on the stove where we're more inclined to peek in at what's going on rather than being surprised at the end. We're glad and sad we opened up our bottle from Côtes du Rhône as we really enjoyed the wine, but know we didn't pair it up with something to get the best out of it.

Sorry Julia!

Oh, and it didn't re-heat for lunch very well at all.  Which of course is almost certainly a byproduct of all noted above.


Our May 2012 Daring Cooks’ hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew originating from the Burgundy region of France.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Brave the Braise

It's been awhile since an involved multi day challenge has come up (although technically there's been a more recent one)...  This is what we got when we chose to go with the Pork Belly option, although we were very close to going Short Ribs - maybe some other time...

We were excited to make time over Saturday so we could enjoy this for our Dinner on Sunday.  Fortunately, most of the time on Saturday is making use of the 6 hour down time.  From the recipe provided...

you can do plenty of other things in these 6 hours!  Enjoy!

Turns out that in 6 hours you can make tasty but ultimately unsuccessful mashed potatoes, yummy rabbit sausage, yummy pheasant sausage (both picked up from our Pork Belly 'dude' on a whim), a generous side of caramelized onions and get through a couple of bottles of wine...

Braised Pork Belly with Caramel Miso Sauce

We thought we knew where to get everything, and didn't foresee any difficulties.  We were a bit lackadaisical in our preparations only picking up the Day 1 ingredients on Day 1 and everything else on Day 2.  Seems like a fair plan, right?  Drat, it wasn't...

Day 1

Off to the store to get the Pork Belly and another store because somehow we ran out of OJ.  No fear of being able to locate the Belly at our friendly Butcher not too far away.  Didn't know they only carry them frozen... 

Do the math and figure out we've got about an hour and a half to get it thawed so we can get it out of the oven and cooled at least mostly before heading off to bed at a sensible hour.  We have a handy dandy defrosting plate (no idea what it's official name is, what it's made of, nor how it works - but it does) and cool water so we set to work.  As it turns out, an hour and a half was a little more time than we needed.

We made the 'Daring' leap that we weren't toasting and grinding spices just to make the kitchen smell nice (it did, btw) so we added them to the salt rubbing step kind of like a sparse dry rub.  Any objections?

Pork in the pot, everything else in on top.  Cover and into Oven. 

No touching, no peeking during the 6 hours.  A little bit of gentle poking once out on the counter before putting it in the fridge as we departed for bed.

Day 2

Bit of a sleep in, work out to get the day started.  Then go pick up the other items needed to finish everything off come dinner time.  Drat.  Our top 3 favorite local stores don't carry any form of Miso.  Really?  Maaaannn...  Oh well.  Off to google to find a suitable alternative of the variety made from things already lying around the house.  Not sure where we found it, exactly, but we went with some Tahini and an increase of Soy.  Any objections?

Making Caramel Sauce (no saying Carmel here, there's another 'a' in there, always - got it!) was something new and surprisingly easy, although a little frightening as things start to happen, but it all went as described.

Cutting up the Belly into pieces was easy enough.  The hard part was removing all the non-Belly bits and pieces that were stuck to the top of it.  Not evil hard, just hard because we didn't plan for it...

The Caramel - not Miso Sauce came together easily enough, although we barely had the required amount of braising liquid to add in.  Maybe that's why it says cover with foil and not the lid like we used?

Belly pieces into the sauce, cook for perhaps a little too long, but definitely using the wrong technique, to bring it all together.  Out on to a plate and enjoy.


We were expecting a slightly more smelly kitchen and living room during our 6 hours of entertaining ourselves.  Probably nothing to get excited about at all until past half way when the kitchen started to 'improve', but it was only during the last hour we got something over by the TV.  Oh well...

It was really tasty.  As noted, we didn't do the saucing part correctly.  We just sort of cooked them up like a 'normal' piece of meat in the sauce.  Oops!  We mostly rendered out the fat, but stopped as soon as we realized what we were doing.  Further review of the pictures provided the clue as to having the pieces spend most of their time fat side up.  Lesson learned!

But, it was still really tasty!

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



Worth the effort, even if we didn't quite execute the last step correctly!  There's no doubt we'll do this again, probably even for friends, but we'd have to try at least once more by ourselves again to get the hang of that last step.

Anticipating a rich dish, we reached far back into our cellar and pulled out a Grenache.   We think it worked out really well, especially as the wine was a little bit softer than what we thought it might be.


ps.  There's a moderately strong chance that we'll go hunt down Rhulman's book - although, for the record we don't really like him when he's on a show as a judge because he seems to look for what's wrong before enjoying what's great in a dish.  Maybe the book can change that impression?

The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.

Responses pre Blog Platform Change

andy responded:
Great job, and good improve on not having Miso!

Shelley C responded:
Sounds like this one wound up a little more daring than you'd expected, but that it all came out delicious is the most important thing. Interesting substitution for the miso, but it sounds really tasty. Great job!

Carol responded:
Well done on the challenge - and you rose to the challenge with your subsittution - loved your blog. I am so glad you enjoyed the challenge!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Flipping Frying Patties!!!

We're not scared of making burgers / patties / fritters. It's just that historically, we haven't done them very well - more from an appearance stance than taste, fortunately.  Armed with the exceptionally long list of tips and tricks (that appeared to make complete sense) our confidence level was raised.

None of the recipes seemed complicated nor time consuming so we thought we'd give two of them a go.  Not wanting to stress ourselves out, nor risk the possibility of two failures in one evening, we decided to make one on consecutive Fridays as our lazy end of week stay in before heading out to misbehave on Saturday. 

Zucchini, Prosciutto & Cheese Fritters

Ok...  What does 'strong bitty cheese' mean?  Seriously, what does it mean?  Seriously! 

We didn't bother with google and went with the sharpest cheddar we could find (based on the label...) because that sounded strong without being blue.  Other than that, there was nothing complicated in rounding up the ingredients from our normal every day grocery store, but at assembly time we realized we'd used one ingredient in the previous night's dinner. We therefore, substituted spring onions for normal every day onion.  Yes, we could have gone out on a one item shopping spree (and be back before the zucchini had finished dripping), but we already had our pajamas on...

  • Grating, salting and waiting for zucchini to drip.  Check.
  • Frying of Prosciutto.  Check, but hard from 2 fronts.  1. Never crisped it up before, just eaten it as it comes.  This didn't feel right.  2. We ate some of it before it made it to the pan...
  • Squeezing of zucchini.  Check.
  • Panic over missing ingredient.  Decide pajamas are comfy.  Find boring onion.  Check.
  • Everything in the bowl together, mix.  Check.
  • Break out the skillet, oil and heat.  Check.
  • Dispense mixture, cook, flip carefully, cook.  Check.
  • Consume.  Check!

Pretty good.  We kind of thought they would benefit from a sauce, but didn't have to have one.  One of us tried them with a sweet marmalade type sauce (pre-made, tucked away in the fridge, sorry) which worked but didn't make them any better.  The other with a chipotle mustard (found right next to the previously mentioned sauce, sorry) and was arguably a mistake as the feeling was that they were better au naturel.

As already noted, there were many tips provided.  This one...

The secret is to wait for the the patty to naturally release itself from the pan surface then flip it over once. the one we wish we'd actually heeded a long time ago and all being well, we'll never forget that it served us well on this occasion.

An 'interesting' bottle of Chardonnay joined in the party...

Basic Canned Fish and Rice Patties

We were given the authority to choose our own fish - well, own fish that comes in a can.  We went with sardines...

We missed the part about needing rice, even as we prepared the very easy to round everything up shopping list.  Therefore, we didn't have the opportunity to use the recommended day old rice.  Also as we put our shopping list together we skipped the breadcrumbs as we have a panko or 'make our own' policy when they are required.  We were pretty certain panko wouldn't be successful binders.

It's these two 'occurrences' that perhaps were the cause of our struggle to get good patties...  Good looking that is, because there's no doubt they tasted mighty fine.

Everything in bowl, well most things in the bowl while we waited for the rice to finish cooling, but eventually everything in the bowl.  Hands are good mixers so our designated get your hands sticky participant (the other delineated job was flipper, in case you care) mixed away.  We thought we got it to the right consistency based on the ball test by adding a few extra breadcrumbs, as suggested.

Then we formed them into patty shapes by using a ring mold, but here's where things went a little down hill.  We (ok, just the sticky fingers person...) struggled to keep the patty in a patty looking shape while applying the breadcrumbs.  We ultimately got there, but it was harder than we think it should have been.  We also managed to break a couple transferring from the counter to the skillet and a couple more during the flipping process (not because they didn't release - we learned that lesson well!).


Not pretty, not destroyed, but at least as many two and three piece patties as the preferred one piecers.  But really tasty, a little crunch from the coating and little bit sweet from all the good things in the mix.

We're accepting the 'fresh' rice combined with slightly chunkier (and less stale?) breadcrumbs lead to our downfall.  Oh well...

The fish and the rice and the spinach and all the other fun things made us feel ok going sauce-less this time especially since everything in our fridge probably wouldn't have been an appropriate pairing.

We had the urge for bubbles with dinner so we grabbed up a Cava we've had lurking for a bit too long.  We enjoyed the wine and it certainly wasn't a bad match with the dish.

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



We had two satisfying meals! 

Neither was hard to make.  Neither was time consuming.  Neither needed fancy equipment. Neither needed far flung shopping trips.  All in all, a relaxing challenge!

We could see ourselves doing the fish ones again just for an easy evening in by ourselves (in case we break them again we'd not share with friends just yet) but we probably wouldn't do the zucchini ones as a dinner.  We could, however, see them making a pretty good component for a Brunch when we've got friends over so we are actually going to keep both recipes safe.

Oh, and for the record, we didn't pick these two recipes because they were listed first in the challenge, just a happy co-incidence after we carefully considered all options presented.


ps.  If you like you're wine, with or without your dinner, you might like to follow along with us (or play by yourself) as we document a project we've recently started.  We're trying to get a hold of wines made from 100 different grapes.  As with the Daring Kitchen, it's mostly about getting out there and trying something new and as we're relatively early in the countdown, both the Chardonnay, and the Cava contributed for us.

The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax & Lis and they chose to present Patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness! We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties!

Comments pre Blog Platform Change

Shelley C responded:
Great choices, and delicious sounding meals! It's always nice when the challenges offer a bit of leeway and come together efficiently and deliciously! :)
Great job.

Susie Bee on Maui responded:
Glad they were tasty!

Audax Artifex responded:
I'm so glad that you liked the notes and information that went with the challenge. Always a joy to read the challenge results on your blog for some reason I can really "see" your efforts and the way you describe the recipes is endearing and charming. Yes the canned fish and rice patties are my favourite and the sardine version is extra special. A great success! Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Ok, we're late, but we're ok with that due to a fun vacation!

Ok, we're excited about this challenge but not in the same way that we expect everyone else is.  Again, we are excited. 

We almost blew this one off (remember the first line of this post?) but decided not to because for the first time ever we have a reason to buy us up some tomatillos.  One of our more frequented non-mega-mart (yes, we're quoting Alton again) stores nearby seems to always have them (and always have people fussing over them - but never us) but we've had no idea what to do with them, mostly because we don't know what to expect from them taste wise.  We're about to change all that!

Green Chile Chicken Tamales

Rounding up everything was easy enough.  As expected the store we knew to have the tomatillos also had everything else we needed (even lard, but we chose to go with the shortening because some of those numbers on the back of the can were, frankly, just a little frightening) and quite easily locatable.

Fortunately we read through the directions one more time in the morning and caught the bit about soaking the husks for at least 3 hours because our plan to start at about 6 for dinner would have meant we were very hungry by the time we got through all 24 steps...

Off to the store relatively early and a dash back into the kitchen for a pot of water before heading out to work out in anticipation of eating a lot of tamales later in the day.


Seeing we needed chicken stock in both parts of this process we got a hold of a whole chicken and boiled him (or her?) up and with the skills we learned way back when we made some Consommé to also save us a few bucks at the grocery store.

Did you know that when you peel a tomatillo that under that very dry looking exterior they're kind of sticky, almost icky?  We didn't, but now we know why rinsing them is included in the directions...  They broiled up nicely, just as expected.

Out comes the food processor, in go the tomatillos and any juices that escaped during the broiling.  We're supposed to give them 5 minutes to cool before hitting the go button which is more than enough time to chop up the garlic and chilies (we dialed back from Serrano to Jalapeno - because one of us is a baby when it comes to hot) and get them in too.

They whiz up just fine and into the pan for some reducing.  Then thinned out again with the chicken stock (that is still warm, btw) and back on the heat for some more reducing.  Eventually it looks as described and the chicken and cilantro join in and then it gets to hang around waiting for the dough to come together.


Sort of looked like the pictures provided, but a good bit more green.  We liked the taste, but having never had tomatillos before (that we know of, to be fair...) we weren't exactly sure what we were aiming for.  We're hoping we like the taste because of the tomatillos which would mean we could get brave and try use them in other dishes sometime soon.

We kind of think it would make a fun sandwich.


More electric mixing devices needed... 

Out comes the stand mixer, on goes the paddle.  In goes the shortening, switch goes to on.

In goes the masa and the more that goes in, the more it looks like the mixture you would put on the top of your apple crumble, but we'd read ahead so we weren't worried.

Slowly added in the stock and with about a quarter cup left we poked it and mushed it in our hands and decided we had the right texture - after turning the mixer off first, of course.


We thought we had the right texture and there's nothing to taste so we continued on our way.

Hindsight suggests that we should have used all of the recommended amount of stock.  Oh well...


It goes together easily enough but it took us a couple each to get the feel for how much dough to spread out, how far to spread it out and then how much filling to plonk on top.  We got there, but we may have been using too much dough all the way through because we didn't get the 24 suggested in the recipe.  We did have filling left over, so now we get to find out if it works as a sandwich filling...

The wrapping was surprisingly easy and we really weren't convinced we'd be able to tie them up nicely with the strips of husk we'd made.  Good thing we didn't bet because we would have lost our cash on that one.

Into the pot, all standing up nicely, heat on, walk away and go find some wine to join them for dinner.  We ended up giving them an extra 10 minutes so as to get the described ease of pulling away the husk.


Although some variation in size, once standing up in the pot they mostly looked like the picture provided, and it didn't take us all that long to get them all put together - phew, we were getting hungry.

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



We made Tamales!  No doubt, we got a dish we're happy with.  Someone who grew up eating and making them may have rolled their eyes a little and may have 'complained' about the texture of the dough, but we certainly think they wouldn't go hungry with our attempt.

Not sure what the official tamale eating rules are, but we kind of think a sauce would have helped (and we note from the postings made on time that some people did serve with a sauce) but we accept that we may have that feeling due to our dough being just a little bit too un-moist - next time we'll use all the stock.

We're thinking these might be fun to bring out for friends as an appetizer one day, but we'll probably have to practice one more time before that.  We certainly have enough masa left over to give us a shot at improving...

As tradition now dictates, we reached into our Wine Cellar to find a beverage to aid in the eating part of the challenge.  This time we came out with a Parés Baltà "Ros de Pacs", a Spanish Organic Rose.  Other than a tasting note suggestion that it goes well with Chicken we just thought a lighter red would be our best bet.  A great wine all on it's own, and certainly did no harm to our Tamales.  Although, we suspect our clever wine guy could come up with a technically better match.


Maranda of Jolts & Jollies was our January 2012 Daring Cooks hostess with the mostess! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!

Comments pre Blog Platform Change

Shelley C responded:
I am so glad that it all worked out so well, and that you were able to get all of the ingredients so darn easily! Sounds like this was a pretty successful challenge for you guys. Great job!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Steamed Char Sui Bao

We have the opportunity to use our Bamboo Steamer?  Cool!

With no ingredients to cause us stress from an eating point of view, the only decision for us was whether to bake or to steam.  It's good to see the steamer on the stove, so steaming it was...

Rounding up the ingredients was a mostly non-event as almost everything we needed already has a place jammedstored nicely in the fridge or in the cupboard.  The couple of things we didn't have we elected to follow the substitution guidelines or guess our own substitution mostly because our jammednicely arranged shelves really don't need another couple of bottles of fun stuff only missing a tablespoon or two.


Day 1

Our pork supplier did a grand job cleaning up our tenderloins as there was hardly anything that needed cleaning up. In fact it took longer for the marinade person to put that together than for the other to clean up the tenderloins and cut into the suggested sizes.

For the marinade we substituted:

  • the light soy with dark soy - not even sure we knew there were two types until now...
  • the maltose with honey
  • the shaoxing cooking wine with sherry - we weren't sure if it was a white or a red and sherry is sort of kind of in the middle in a generous sort of substitution way ...
  • five spice with asian spice blend - actually, we're kind of surprised and / or embarrassed that we don't have any...

And then we got everyone in the pool.  Mixed a bit, saved a bit and coated the [easily] prepared pork.  Into the fridge, and back to the TV (and then bed and then a day of chores) to allow time to do its thing.

Day 2 - Part 1

We went with the sear then oven method for cooking.  A little confusion in that the bake only time suggested was shorter than for our chosen option.  Ultimately we went a little bit longer than the recommended 15 minutes, but we think that has a lot to do with the many times the oven door was opened while we basted - this strongly suggests that the bake only method would need at least this long too, but we didn't experiment.

We also saved a little less than suggested of the marinade for basting as we were a bit nervous therre wasn't enough in the bowl to do the marinating.  Turns out we had just the right amount for basting so we lucked into a win win there.


A little bit of char on the outside from the pan and lots of sticky goodness only adding to that from the basting.  We have no doubt it looks the way it should!

Chopping it up for the next step was a challenge.  Not because it's hard to chop, but it's hard not to get too carried away with the sampling!  It's tasty!

Day 2 - Part 2

Once we 'suffered' through the chopping of the Pork Loin part everything else was straightforward enough.  We perhaps could argue no substitutions were made for this part, but remember that whole dark v light soy thing?

It didn't thicken as quickly as suggested.  Rather than trying to add in more cornflour and therefore double the opportunity for lumps we simmered a bit longer using evaporation to help out here.  Drat!  Looks like we did have a substitution of a sort...


Tasty!  Yeah, we had more than a quick taste and we know this is still not supposed to be the eating part of the day...  Rich, but not crazy rich.  Definitely moorish. 


Hmmmm...  What does scald milk mean?  Google was only moderately helpful because it seems they don't really know the answer either with many variations / interpretations / directions to get the job done.  We went with heat over medium heat until just about boiling and used the visual cue of a few bubbles around the side.

After adding some treats into the milk (for the record, the oil does not look good sitting on top during this cooling) we didn't have to sit around waiting for luke-warm to appear because we were actually doing this concurrently with the pork.  The yeast did it's magic and then it was time to get the elbow grease out and knead away - we tagged out a couple of times along the way.

Timing was on our side for a change.  The dough was easily twice it's size in just over an hour so we were able to get going on the assembly way earlier than expected.  YAY!

Dividing and rolling and spooning all went well (although we had 2 'buns' with no filling - probably related to the over sampling of earlier in the evening).  The sealing up, not so much.  We found the only way we could keep them together was with a bit of water along the joins.  No big deal, but we weren't prepared for this eventuality causing us at least a minute - probably more like a minute and a half - of panic.

The extra bit of raising didn't go so well.  We completely skipped over it.  We're blaming the tastiness of the filling and the need to get this done as quickly as possible combined with the panic of the sealing up issues.  Sorry about that.  Oh well...

The steaming went fine in terms of timing and extraction, but some of them had parts that looked a little translucent almost and not the even white color and texture we were expecting.  Is that because we didn't give them that extra bit of rising?


The translucent parts only affected the prettiness factor because we think they still tasted great.  We were kind of bummed we only had one layer in our steamer and therefore were forced into 2 courses rather than all at once.  But we got through that distress thanks to the help of our TV and a bottle of wine...

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



It was tasty and filling and easy to round up the ingredients and not hard to put them all together.  Not as pretty as we would have liked (but that's probably our fault), and therefore not something we could 'risk' serving up to friends (unless it could be proved that our skipping of the extra bit of raising was the cause).  But the pork when it still looked like a loin could easily be incorporated into a have friends over for dinner arrangement.

Our Wine Club suggested that a Bourdeaux type blend out of Mankas Vineyards, called 'Amelie' would work with BBQ pork so out it came.  Our opinion is that no harm was done to the pork by the wine and vice versa, but no great improvements either - but that's just our opinion.


Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

Comments pre Blog Platform Change

Andy responded:
I always love your posts! They are so much fun to read. I too had the same question about "scald". And I steamed the first buns without letting them rise a second time, and I got to tell you, the extra rising really does help with the way the look in the end.
Great job!

Shelley C responded:
As always, great post! Yeah, the sampling portion of the process can easily go overboard with a recipe like this, because that filling was just so tasty and easy to eat!! Sounds like everything went really well, even with the minor panic in there, and that you had a delicious dinner!! Great job :)

Brian responded:
What a great post! I'm glad that everything worked out well.

Cher responded:
Fun post - glad you survived your adventure!