Sunday, September 14, 2014

Christmas Melon and Dragon Fruit Parfait with Añejo Tequila Honey Caramel and Thai Banana Coconut Crème Anglaise

     *This is the Thai Banana Coconut Ice Cream follow up recipe.  This simple Parfait Recipe features an interesting way to use the extra Thai Banana Coconut Crème Anglaise!

     The literal translation of the French word "Parfait" is "Perfect!"  The original late 1800's French definition of a "Parfait Dessert" was a chilled dessert, that was a hand stirred aerated ice cream.  Basically, the original French Parfait was crème anglaise that was stirred by hand in a freezer till it became a custard consistency.  Whisking the French Parfait made it light and airy.  Henceforth, this is how this dessert got the name "Perfect!"

     As time progressed, the definition of "Parfait" eventually became a layered dessert that is served in a tall parfait glass.  The layers usually consisted of custard, fresh or canned fruit, pudding, fruit compote, caramel, syrup, fruit aspic, crème patisserie, sabayon, chantilly or whipped cream.  

     As one can see, the modern definition of parfait is fairly loose.  To maintain a sense of integrity, when making a parfait, the ultimate goal is to make a layered dessert in a cup that is perfect!  What I mean by perfect, is that the ingredients should be light on the palate and the flavor should be angelic.  This is in keeping with the original French Parfait theme.  

     If there ever was a crème anglaise flavor that fits the French Parfait description, it is Thai Banana Crème Anglaise.  This thin egg custard dessert sauce seems to trigger some kind of taste sensation that causes an uncontrollable urge to eat one spoonful of this sauce after another.  The flavor is quite agreeable.  Perfect!  
     Crème Anglaise can easily be turned into a thick custard, by adding a few extra egg yolks and gently heating the sauce to 140º in a double boiler, while constantly stirring.  This is an option if a thick custard is desired.  As it is, a thin crème anglaise carries plenty of flavor and it easily clings to chilled fresh fruit in a parfait dessert.  

     Kah Añejo Tequila Desert Wildflower Honey Caramel Sauce    
     Since I live in the Mojave desert, it was a natural to jazz the caramel sauce up with a touch of southwestern flavor.  This also made it possible to use a nifty looking green cactus stem margarita glass for the parfait presentation.  Ce est la vie!  
     Las Vegas has been one of the few test market cities for Kah Tequila.  Kah currently produces four types of tequila.  Every Kah Tequila comes in a hand painted Day Of The Dead skull shaped bottle.  The bottles literally works of fine art and they make great conversation pieces.  Kah is available in petite airline size bottles and 750ml bottles.  

     Three Kah Tequilas are pictured in the pictures above.  Kah Silver Tequila comes in a white skull bottle.  The Kah Reposado comes in a rusty tan colored bottle.  The bottle of Kah Reposado in the picture was a petite airline size bottle.  The black skull bottle is Kah Añejo and this 9 month aged tequila was used to flavor the caramel in today's recipe.

     Kah Tequilas are not cheap, but then again, few things are these days.  "If one wants the best, one has to be prepared to dish out some clams!"  
     Kah Tequilas are among the very best tequilas in the world.  The rule of thumb when shopping for tequila always seems to be, "the fancier the bottle, the better the tequila."  Kah Tequila certainly is packaged in a fancy bottle.  
     If Kah Tequila is not available in your area, then purchasing information can be found at the Kah Website.  This information is all that a good local liquor store manager needs to know, when a special order is placed by a customer.
     Kah Añejo Tequila ... Highly recommended!  
     Here is the Kah Website Link:  Kah Tequila 

     Thai Banana Coconut Crème Anglaise:
     This recipe was previously published in an ice cream recipe.  The recipe yield is about 4 cups, so if a small amount is all that is needed, the doing some Baker's Math will be necessary.
     Here is a link to the recipe that opens in a separate window:  

     Añejo Tequila Honey Caramel
     This recipe yields 2 small portions!
     Dark Amber Brown Desert Wildflower Honey was used in this recipe, because it has a very rich flavor.  This type of honey is common in the southwest.  Just about anywhere else, it has to be special ordered.  Any good local honey can be used in its place.
     Kah Añejo Tequila is a bit expensive, so using it in recipes is not really feasible.  I used Kah Añejo in this recipe, just so I could display the neat looking bottle to viewers of this website.  Using a cheaper añejo tequila for cooking does make sense.    
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium high heat.  
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of light brown sugar.
     Boil the ingredients, till the water evaporates and the sugar starts to bubble.
     Continue cooking the sugar, till it becomes an amber brown caramel color.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat. 
     Immediately add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1 tablespoon of honey.  
     Add 4 ounces of Añejo Tequila. 
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thick glacé (syrup) consistency.  
     Chill the Añejo Tequila Honey Caramel till it is just a bit cooler than room temperature.  

     Christmas Melon and Dragon Fruit Parfait with Añejo Tequila Honey Caramel and Thai Banana Coconut Crème Anglaise:
     Dragon Fruit actually is a cactus fruit that is native to Mexico.  The flavor is gentle and sweet.  About one half of a dragon fruit is enough for one large parfait style serving.
     Use a paring knife to peel a dragon fruit.  Try to retain as much of the pink color flesh as possible.
     Cut the dragon fruit into quarter wedges that are about 1/4" thick.
     Place the dragon fruit wedges in a tall stemmed margarita glass.
     Cut a portion of peeled seeded Christmas Melon into 6 thin spears that are about 4" long.
     Vertically insert the melon spears into the back half of the glass in a row.
     Chill the glass and fruit to about 40º to 45º.
     Spoon enough of the Añejo Tequila Honey Caramel over the dragon fruit in the glass so a thn layer forms on the bottom of the parfait.
     Spoon some Thai Banana Coconut Crème Anglaise over the center of the dragon fruit to complete the layered parfait.  Try to leave a couple of dragon fruit slices exposed, so they can be seen.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of lime zest over the crème anglaise.  
     Garnish with two thin lime wedges. 

     Viola!  Perfect!  Perfect is what French Parfait is all about.  Yum!

Thai Banana Coconut Ice Cream

     Thai Bananas
     Plantain and Cavendish Bananas are sold in nearly every standard grocery store in America.  Occasionally common grocery stores stock hog bananas or varieties of finger bananas, but this is about as exotic as the banana selection gets.
    Gourmands do have to "shop outside the box" when seeking exotic banana varieties.  Once again, the word "exotic" has a relative meaning that depends on geographic location.  Bananas that are exotic or hard to find in America are often a commonplace food staple somewhere else around the globe.  When seeking a species of banana that native to a region like Southeast Asia, the most likely place to find such a banana would be at a good Asian food market or an International food specialty market.  
     Thai Bananas are almost never stocked in the produce section at common grocery stores, yet they are one of the most highly prized gourmet bananas that there is.  When looking at a bunch of freshly harvested yellow Thai bananas, they look pretty.  A bunch of Thai bananas definitely do have an exotic Asian banana look, partly because these bananas cluster together in perfect looking rows.  
     Part of the reason why Thai Bananas are not stocked in common grocery stores is because many Americans are not familiar with the nature of this banana species.  American grocery shoppers tend to think that brightly colored unblemished fruit is always the best choice.  Unblemished yellow Thai Bananas really are not ripe at all.  Thai bananas have to ripen almost as much as a plantain.  
     A perfect yellow Thai Banana is still in the starchy stage of the ripening process and the carbohydrates have not converted to fructose sugars and full flavors.  Thai Bananas start to become sugary sweet and tangy when the skin becomes mottled with plenty of brown color.  The skin on Thai Bananas is very thin, when compared to a Cavendish Banana, yet the fruit is not easily bruised until the Thai banana becomes ripe.  
     Because the Thai Banana skin is thin, more moisture from the fruit inside passes through to the surface of the skin as the Thai Banana ripens.  This creates a most complex carbohydrate environment for airborne molds and fungus to grow on.  Various molds end up growing on the blotchy yellow and brown Thai Banana skin when they are ripe enough to eat.  A sight like this is not really appealing to American shoppers that are used to only seeing bright unblemished yellow bananas at the market.  Therefore, the average grocery store produce section manager does not stock Thai Bananas.  
     A smart produce manager that wanted to lead the way into the realm of Thai Bananas would set up a product demonstration booth in the produce section.  The booth should be staffed with somebody that can educate shoppers about this great tasting banana species.  Nearly every culture outside of America is familiar with Thai Bananas and they understand the nature of the ripening process.  Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of education to create a market for an odd food item that Americans are not familiar with.    

     Anyway, the reason that Thai Bananas are so highly prized is flavor!  Thai Bananas have a strong classic tropical banana flavor that has a faint hint of exotic spices.  These bananas have a great balance of strong tangy sweet banana flavor.  
     Thai Bananas are usually fried and served as dessert in Thai and Filipino restaurants.  They are also used to flavor many desserts.  As far as banana flavor goes, Thai Bananas could be used to make the world's greatest tasting Banana Cream Pie!  Thai Bananas can also be used to make the richest tasting banana ice cream that has ever been experienced.

     The Thai Bananas in the pictures above were purchased at an Asian food market in Chinatown, Las Vegas.  These bananas were grown in Mexico.  Since they were imported from Mexico, in all likelihood, Thai Bananas just might also be found in Latino food markets in America.  From what I saw while researching the availability topic on the internet, a few food writers mistakenly stated that Thai Bananas are never sold in America.  I guess that I just proved that those food writers were absolutely wrong.  As consumer interest grows, so will the availability of this great tasting banana.  

     Thai Banana Coconut Milk Ice Cream Making Information
     The base sauce recipe for making French ice cream is Crème Anglaise.  A Crème Anglaise that is thinned with just a little bit of milk will produce an ice cream that is not 100% butterfat and it will be a bit lighter on the palate.  Coconut compliments the flavor of banana.  In the Crème Anglaise recipe, the proportion of milk and cream is reduced to make room for the addition of coconut milk.  
     Coconut milk will become a thinner consistency as it heats.  If it it heated too much, coconut milk will turn into coconut oil, so the nature of coconut milk is vaguely similar to cream.  

     The addition of Thai Bananas to the Crème Anglaise is kind of like adding a stabilizing agent, because of the starchy nature of the banana.  Therefore, to produce an ice cream that does not become solid as a rock after the ice cream is frozen for 24 hours, the ice cream has to be churned to a medium to thick gelato finish temperature, which falls just short of a soft ice cream temperature.  Some ice cream machines, like the Breville model that I use, do have an automated finish temperature system.  For this kind of machine, just pre-set the dial to the medium gelato or firm gelato setting.  
     For those who have an ice cream machine that has no guidance system, just visually check the ice cream.  When the ice cream looks like it is a soft serve ice cream texture, then it is ready.  After the Thai Banana and Coconut Milk Ice Cream is placed in the freezer for 24 hours, it will become a classic firm hard ice cream texture.

     How do I get things like this right the first time, every time?  Experience and education.  When creating something new, giving the execution of the idea some forethought can save a lot of time and money.  Fiddling around with a lengthy series of ice cream experiments impresses nobody.  Having to eat one ice cream experiment after another might sound great, until one looks in the mirror and the reflection reveals a body shape that looks more like a hippo than a human being.  Eating too much ice cream certainly will lead to obesity problems.  So by all means, it pays to use the old noggin when developing a new ice cream recipe.   

     Ice Cream and Frozen Dessert Machine:
     Breville Ice Cream Machines are about as good as an ice cream machine can be.  These machines are very heavy, because the compressor is huge.  Anything from slushies and sorbet to gelato and hard packed ice cream can be made with a Breville Ice Cream Machine.  These machines are housed in stainless steel and they are heavy duty enough for restaurant applications.   
      • All ice cream machines have their own maximum capacity.  The Breville Smart Scoop has a max capacity of 1 1/2 quarts.  
     A common mistake that home cooks make is to use the max capacity as the guideline for how much liquid ice cream mixture cab be added to the machine drum.  Aeration causes the liquid volume to expand and increase in size as the ice cream mixture gels and freezes.  
     For a Breville 600 machine, 3 1/2 cups of liquid ice cream mixture will increase in size and it will expand to nearly 1 1/2 quarts (about 6 cups).  It is important to not exceed the 3 1/2 cup limit or there will be an out of control big mess to clean up!  

     Thai Banana Coconut Creme Anglaise:  
     Creme Anglaise is used to create a classic French style ice cream texture.  Creme Anglaise is not difficult to make.  
     After the egg yolks are combined, the temperature of creme anglaise should not exceed 140º or the sauce will break.  
     It is best to make the creme anglaise the day before making ice cream.  The creme anglaise must be chilled for 4 hours before it can be placed in an ice cream machine.  Creme anglaise can be kept in a refrigerator for 7 days.  
     • This recipe yields about 4 cups of flavored creme anglaise!  There will be about an extra 1 cup of this sauce, which can be used as a dessert sauce or poured over fresh fruit.
     • 3 /2 cups of crème anglaise is enough to make 1 batch of ice cream in a Breville 600 machine.
     Place 4 egg yolks (AA Grade Large Eggs) into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 cup of cream.  
     Whisk the ingredients till blended.
     Set the mixture aside.
     Place 1 cup of cream in a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of milk.
     Add 3/4 cup of coconut milk.
     Add 1/3 cup of granulated sugar.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg. 
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.  
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 small pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 small pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch ginger powder.
     Add 4 to 5 drops of yellow food color.  (use organic if it is available)
     Add 5 average size ripe Thai Bananas that are coarsely chopped.  About 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups
     Bring the cream to a gentle simmer.  Stir occasionally.  Do not allow the cream to overheat and foam!  The cream should be about 145º to 155º.
     Gently simmer till the bananas become very tender.
     Use a blending wand or a food processor to puree the sauce.  (Try to do this quickly, so the sauce stays warm.  If the sauce cools, reheat it before adding it to the egg yolks and cream.) 
     Slowly pour the warm cream mixture into the cold egg yolk/cream mixture while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Return the entire creme anglaise mixture to the sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Constantly slowly stir the creme anglaise with a whisk, as it heats and thickens to a thin sauce consistency.  Do not allow the creme anglaise to exceed 140º or the sauce will break!  The sauce should evenly and thinly coat the back of a spoon.  
     Pour the finished creme anglaise into a container.
     Chill the Thai Banana Coconut Crème Anglaise for at least 4 hours before using it to make ice cream.   
     Thai Banana Coconut Ice Cream: 
     This recipe is written for a 6 cup max capacity ice cream machine! 
     Set the ice cream machine dial to a medium to firm gelato setting or a soft ice cream setting.
     Pre-cool the ice cream machine.  
     Place 3 1/2 cups of the Thai Banana Coconut Crème Anglaise in the churning drum.
     Place the drum in the ice cream machine.
     Assemble the machine pieces.
     Churn till the ice cream churns to a soft ice cream texture. 
     Turn off the machine.
     Remove the drum.
     Pack the ice cream into a container and place it in the freezer.
     Freeze for 12 to 24 hours, till the ice cream becomes a firm consistency.   

     This is the tastiest banana ice cream!  Thai Bananas really do make a big difference in flavor.  

     • I have not created any ice cream recipes with the Thai Banana Coconut Ice Cream as of yet, so there are no ice cream presentation photos to display.  I did use some of the Thai Banana Coconut Crème Anglaise to make a fruit parfait creation.  A recipe for this will be posted within the next 12 hours, so stayed tuned and do not turn that dial.  Ha!  Yum! 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Endless Century Kettle Soup with Chinese Sweet Potato Thread Noodles, Bamboo Mushrooms and Round Shallots

     Bamboo Mushrooms
     Disclaimer:  Many varieties of Stinkhorn mushrooms contain a chemical that is similar to the medicine that is used to cure alcoholism.  The chemical is just about the same as the chemical Disulfiram and the anti-alcohol abuse drug is called Antabuse.  
     When alcohol is consumed up to about a half a day or a whole day before or after eating certain kinds of Stinkhorn mushrooms, severe nausea, anxiety, profuse sweating and high blood pressure will occur.
     Since Bamboo Mushrooms are a variety of Stinkhorn Mushrooms, no alcohol should be consumed before, during or after eating Bamboo Mushrooms, or a temporary severe illness will occur!
     Bamboo Mushrooms are a variety of edible Stinkhorn mushrooms that grow in temperate regions worldwide.  Bamboo Mushrooms are also called Bamboo Fungus and Long Net Stinkhorns.  These mushrooms have a small light brown color cap and a long white veil that looks like a delicate woven white lace net.
     Bamboo Mushrooms are usually dried, before being packed for sale.  Dried Bamboo Mushrooms are very delicate and they must be handled gently.  The pungent odor of the Stinkhorn cap dissipates when these mushrooms are dried.
     Bamboo Mushrooms have a very delicate and pleasant tasting.  These mushrooms actually kind of have a bamboo shoot kind of flavor.  The texture is unique and they feel like a soft sponge on the palate.
     Throughout history, cultures around the globe have used Bamboo Mushrooms in ceremonies and sacred rites.  Many centuries ago, Bamboo Mushrooms were a popular food item with the royal ladies in Chinese Empirical Palaces, because these mushrooms were famous for being an aphrodisiac.  The scientific name for these mushrooms is Phallus indusiatus.  The word "Phallus" refers to the phallic shape of these mushrooms, which adds to the sensual aphrodisiac experience.

     Chinese Soup Broths And Stocks
     Making soup stock is an art in itself.  Contrary to belief, The French are not the only culture that make stocks instead of broths.  Chinese chefs have a history of making stocks that dates back for thousands of years.
     A definitive broth is made with only one item, like meat or vegetables.  A broth can also be made with any combination of meat and vegetables.
     French stocks have a specific proportion of meat, vegetables, mushrooms and herbs.  The same specific proportion of ingredients statement also applies to Chinese stocks.  The variety of Chinese stocks and the list of ingredients used to make Chinese stocks are extensive.

     In China, there are many soup broths or stocks that have specific names.  Basically, the rule of thumb for making a Chinese soup broth or stock is this.  The soup broth or stock is designed specifically for the soup that it will be used to make.  Many Chinese soup stocks or broths do have specific names and the traditional recipe is never changed.  For example, when a Chef asks for Chinese Superior Broth, the chef expects a very slowly simmered chicken, pork and Jinhua Ham broth, that is required for specific recipes.

     Endlessly Simmering Kettle Soups
     Modern crock pot cookery really is nothing new.  Kettle cookery has a history that goes back for thousands of years.  One popular modern electric appliance crock pot recipe is called "Endless Simmer."  Endless Simmer is a meat broth or complete soup that continually simmers 24 hours a day, endlessly for weeks or months on end.
     The Endless Simmer Soup is eaten occasionally or daily.  The ingredients are continually replenished.  When the bones are cooked till no more nutrients are available, the bones are removed to make way for more fresh soup bones and meat.  The grease is also continually skimmed off and it can be used to flavor other recipes.
     The modern crock pot Endless Simmer Broth or Soup is an item that really is nothing new.  Many cultures around the globe have similar traditional kettle recipes that also simmer endlessly.
     The Origin Of Today's Chinese Endless Simmering Kettle Soup Recipe
     A few years ago, I watched an interesting film that was about regional Chinese noodle varieties and how the noodles are traditionally served.  One scene in the movie focused on an old Chinese restaurant that is famous its huge kettle full of meaty soup bones that endlessly simmers in the dining room.
     I cannot remember the name of the restaurant, but is was located in a busy Chinese metropolitan area.  I tried to research information about this restaurant, so that I could post a hyperlink for viewers of this article to see, but none could be found.  I tried entering various combinations of words in a search engine, but as luck would have it, no information turned up.  So, the only thing that I can do is describe the concept of the endless simmering kettle restaurant.

     A huge kettle of simmering meaty pork, ham and beef bones in a restaurant exudes a mouth watering aroma that lingers in the dining room area.  The rich endlessly simmering kettle of broth aroma carries outside of the restaurant, where pedestrians notice.  The aroma is like the best advertising in the world, because it captivates passers by and the temptation to seek the source of the rich meat broth aroma is nearly impossible to resist.  The aroma from the kettle can be compared to a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow!

     In the regional Chinese noodle movie, some background about the simmering kettle pot restaurant was provided.  Apparently this restaurant has been owned by the same family for a very long time.  The original giant kettle of of simmering meaty soup bones in the dining room was started when the restaurant first opened for business.  The soup bone kettle has been continuously simmering ever since that day.

     Customers are sat at tables in this restaurant and they usually order the endless kettle soup with noodles of their choice.  Several chefs make a variety of fresh noodles right in the dining room, where customers can see.  The noodles are cooked, cold water shocked and reheated.  The waiter carries the steaming hot noodles to the table and adds them to the bowl of kettle soup that is placed in front of the customer.  A second waiter offers a wide variety of soup garnishes to the customer and serves each requested garnish directly into the hot bowl of steaming kettle soup.  The soup garnishes range from raw ingredients like mung bean sprouts or thin sliced onion to prepared items like sauces and cooked vegetables.

     In this Chinese restaurant, the bones and bits of meat are cut to to a size that is suitable for serving, before they roasted.  The roasted meat and bones are then added to the endlessly simmering kettle several times each day.  The bones meat and broth are scooped up with a large ladle and served in a large soup bowl.  Since the bones are served with each bowl of soup, there is no need to pull the spent  soup bones from the pot and discard them.  In fact, the customer savor the bones.  Chewing the cartilaginous bits and eating any marrow that remains on the bones is customary.
     As one can imagine, because the kettle of roasted soup bones has been simmering continuously for many years, the broth is very dark, rich tasting and it is full of nutrients.  The kettle is tended by one cook who constantly maintains the broth, by scooping the oldest simmered meat shreds and bones from the bottom of the kettle to the top.  This action maintains the clarity of the broth.

     The Endless Century Kettle Soup Name
     Since I could not remember the name of the famous Chinese kettle soup restaurant and I could not find the specific name of the endlessly simmering kettle soup, thinking up an appropriate name seemed like the best thing to do.  Chinese entree names often have a romantic name, a symbolic name or a name that creates pleasant imagery.
     Throughout culinary history, Chinese chefs and home cooks are renowned for being masters of naming food creations in a way that creates customer interest.  Often the Chinese phrase "Endless Century" or the word "Century" on its own, is used to describe a long cooking process or an item that requires an extensive amount of time to prepare.  The word "Century" can also describe a prepared food item that lasts nearly forever.  Chinese Century Eggs are a good example of how the word "Century" is applied.
     The word "Eternal" is not a good choice for describing food, because this word usually applies to the dearly departed or a fountain of youth concoction.
     The name "Endless Century Kettle Soup" does have a Chinese sounding ring to it.  This phrase also creates an image of a kettle soup that simmer continuously over long period of time. "Endless Century Kettle Soup" could possible be the real name of this traditional Chinese soup.  Who knows!  All that I know, is that this name was the best recipe title that I could come up with for describing this soup.

     Chinese Sweet Potato Thread Noodles
     Sweet Potato Thread Noodles are a variety of glass noodles that are made with sweet potato starch.  Glass noodles are clear and translucent.  Chinese Sweet Potato Thread Noodles predate Korean Sweet Potato Noodles and they can be used in recipes from either country.  These noodles have a pleasant gummy texture after they are boiled, then shocked in ice water.

     Round Shallots
     There are well over fifty varieties of shallots worldwide.  Round Shallots are popular in Asia.  These shallots have a mild sweet onion flavor.  They are nice accompaniment for a soup like today's recipe.  

     Bamboo Mushroom Preparation:
     This yield 1 portion!
     Place 5 to 7 dried Bamboo Mushroom in a container.
     Cover the mushrooms with water.
     Soak the mushrooms overnight in a refrigerator.
     Drain the water off the mushrooms.
     Keep the Bamboo Mushrooms chilled till they are needed.
     Endless Century Kettle Broth:
     This recipe yields about 2 gallons of rich meat broth!
     The broth can be used for many recipes and it can be turned into a French Glace Viande.
     Any combination of meaty ham bones, pork bones, pig feet and beef soup bones can be used to make this broth.  The soup broth in the pictures was made with beef soup bones and pork neck bones. only a small amount of tomato and mirepoix vegetables were added to the bones when they were roasted.  The acid in tomatoes does help to break down the cartilaginous substances on the bones.  
     The soup broth in the pictures only simmered for 10 hours.  As the Endless Simmering Kettle Soup topic in the paragraphs above suggest, this kettle soup can literally be simmered and replenished continuously over a long period of time.  
     In order to create a modern food presentation, the soup broth was strained and the bones were removed, before the soup broth was flavored and served.  The bits of meat were picked of the bones and served with the broth.
     Place 3 pounds of meaty beef soup bones and 2 1/4 pounds of pork neck bones in a roasting pan.
     Add 3 whole canned plum tomatoes and a proportion of the tomato juice from the can.
     Add 1/3 cup of thick sliced carrot.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped celery. 
     Add 1 chopped small onion. 
     Roast the mixture in a 350º oven till the bones and vegetables caramelize to a deep brown color. 
     Place the bones and mirepoix in a large stock pot. 
     Deglaze the roasting pan with water and add the jus to the stock pot. 
     Cover the bones with 2" of extra water. 
     Set the temperature to medium low/low heat. 
     Gently simmer for 4 to 10 hours.  Add water occasionally to cover the bones.  (The soup broth can be replenished with new roasted soup bones and simmered continuously for an endless century if you wish!)   
     By now the meat stock should be a rich brown color.
     Skim the grease off of the top of the simmering meat stock. 
     Strain the thickened meat stock through a fine mesh strainer into a second large pot.  (Or if an Endlessly Simmering Kettle Soup is the goal, then just strain a portion of the broth.)
     Set the bones, meat scraps and vegetables aside and let them cool.  (Option:  These items can be served with the soup broth.)
     Pick the meat off the bones and chill the meat scraps till they are needed. 
     Keep the broth warm over low heat.
     • The broth can be refrigerated for 7 days or it can be frozen in containers.  If the soup bone broth is simmered endlessly, then just keep it simmering and replenish the bones, till the day that the soup is no longer desired.

     Chinese Sweet Potato Thread Noodles:
     Boil a pot of water over high heat.
     Add 1 large portion of Chinese Potato Thread Vermicelli Noodles.
     Stir the noodles occasionally.
     Boil till the noodles become tender, but so they still have a firm texture that is not too soft.
     Drain the hot water off of the noodles.
     Place the noodles in a pot of ice water to shock them.
     Stir the noodles by hand, till they feel like they have a firm chewy texture.
     Drain the ice water off of the noodles.
     Set the shocked cooked Chinese Potato Thread Vermicelli Noodles aside.

     Endless Century Kettle Soup with Chinese Sweet Potato Thread Noodles, Bamboo Mushrooms and Round Shallots:
     This recipe yield 1 large serving that can be shared by two guests! 
     Place 6 cups of the strained Endless Century Kettle Soup Broth In a large sauce pot.
     Bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat.
     Add 4 peeled whole round shallots.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 2 pinch of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Chinkiang Black Vinegar.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of Chinese chile powder.
     Add 3 pinches of fresh ground Szechuan pepper.
     Boil till the shallots start to become tender.
     Add 1 or 2 portions of the reserved soup bone meat scraps.
     Add the prepared Sweet Potato Thread Noodles.
     Carefully place the prepared reconstituted Bamboo Mushrooms on the surface of the noodles in the soup.  Do not stir the soup!
     When the noodles become hot, the soup is ready.

     Carefully use a large slotted serving spoon to scoop each bamboo mushroom from the surface of the soup and place them on a plate.  Keep the plate warm on a stove top.
     Use tongs to gather the Sweet Potato Thread Noodles and mound them in a large soup bowl.
     Pour the Endless Century Soup into the soup bowl.  Try to expose a few bits of meat and the round shallots on the surface, so they can be seen.
     Place a bunched large portion of cilantro sprigs in the soup against the rim of the bowl.
     Carefully place the Bamboo Mushrooms on the noodles, so they fan out from the cilantro sprigs.
     Offer the guests chopsticks and soup spoons!

     This is a tasty rich and satisfying Chinese style soup that is perfect for sharing with a guest.  This soup is for the endless chilly autumn season.  Yum!  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Southern Fried Frog Legs with Marjoram Neon Relish Louisiana Remoulade - Grilled Heirloom San Marzano Tomato and Gaufrette Potatoes

    Buttermilk Batter Fried Frog Legs with a Louisiana style remoulade made with Fresh Marjoram and Chicago Neon Relish!  

     Southern Fried
     A "Southern Fried" coating meats with seasoned flour or coating meats with buttermilk and seasoned flour, before pan frying in a cast iron skillet.  The frying medium for southern fried recipes is pork lard, animal fat grease of nearly any kind or a combination of animal fat lard and vegetable oil.  From the standpoint of a gourmand, lard is the best frying medium of them all, because it has a high smoking point and it carries flavor.  Pan frying in a shallow amount of oil or lard produces the best fried food flavor.  The same method of pan frying has been used by Asian cooks for many centuries, when frying food in a shallow amount of oil in a wok.  
     When Frog Legs are southern fried with a buttermilk batter, the crispy golden brown coating seals the natural flavor of the frog legs in.  Crispy golden brown, is golden in more ways than one!  Old school chefs refer to crispy golden brown by the letters "CGB."  Old school restaurant managers refer to CGB by expressing a comment like, "Man!  We are going to make some great money tonight!"

     Neon Relish
     Neon Relish is a Chicago specialty.  The last time that I featured Neon Relish in recipes was a few years ago, when I was working in Chicago.  Just about the only traditional recipe in the world that officially features Neon Relish is the Chicago Style Hot Dog.  Since most people do not eat Chicago Hot Dogs every meal, a jar of Neon Relish can end up sitting in the refrigerator for quite a spell.  Creating new recipes with Neon Relish kind of helps people to see how this classic condiment can be put to use.  When creating recipes with this relish, the word "Neon" or the words Neon Relish should be part of the recipe title, because the name of this relish creates customer interest.
      Neon Relish has a unique Grecian or Middle Eastern spiced sweet relish flavor and the color is bright aquamarine bluish green.  The original Neon Relish is made by a company in Chicago and it is difficult to find the original product outside of the Chicago region.  The original Neon Relish does have the best color and flavor.  The Vienna Hot Dog Company markets a product that is called Chicago Style Relish, which is nearly the same as the original Neon Relish.  Relish connoisseurs will notice the subtle differences between these two products and the original clearly stands above the other.  Even so, both products are high quality items that will please any relish fan.  
     Louisiana Remoulade
     Creole Mustard is a necessity, when making a Louisiana Remoulade.  Creole Mustard has a unique zesty flavor that cannot be compared to French or German mustard varieties.  Some European mustards are similar, but none are an exact match.
     There are several kinds of Louisiana Remoulade and all are identified by their color.  The most common have a pink or orange color.  This color comes from the addition of catsup.  Catsup is easy to make from scratch, but buying a bottle of organic catsup will save money.  Organic catsup is closest to the original catsup recipe, which originated somewhere near the Eastern Russia and Chinese border area.  Catsup originally was a cooking sauce.   
     Remoulade of any kind calls for a variety of herbs in the recipe.  When a much sought after herb is in season, then featuring that herb in a remoulade is okay to do.  Fresh marjoram has a luxurious appealing aromatic flavor.  When no other herb and only marjoram is used to make remoulade, the flavor profile creates a very pleasant tasting experience.
     Neon Relish gives Louisiana Remoulade a sweet Middle Eastern spice flavor that is very appealing.  Remoulade is usually made with Cornichon, Baby Gherkin or Baby Sweet Gherkin pickles.  Many Louisiana chefs just use sour dill pickle relish, because it is cost effective and the flavor is good.    

     Heirloom San Marzano Tomato
     In this age of GMO food, unsustainable farming, chemical pesticides and food that is saturated with herbicides, choosing organic food is the wisest thing to do.  Heirloom tomato varietals are bred the old fashioned way or they are naturally occurring species.  
     One of the all time classic tomato hybrids originated in Peru and Argentina.  The Inca and many preceding cultures were experts at developing hybrid vegetable strains.  One of these original ancient tomato strains was presented to a prominent Italian family order many years ago.  This long sweet plum tomato varietal came to be known as the San Marzano tomato.  
     San Marzano tomatoes are respected by all chefs as being the best tomato for cooking of them all.  Just the good looks of the lightly seasoned grilled heirloom San Marzano tomato in the pictures above says it all.  The only tomato that actually is better for cooking, is the Creole Tomato.  Unfortunately, Creole Tomatoes can only be grown in specific conditions.  Creole Tomatoes have to be grown in certain areas of Louisiana, where the soil and climate are just right.  Creole Tomatoes are rarely shipped out of Luisiana, because they are so highly prized by the local people. 

     Marjoram Neon Relish Louisiana Remoulade:
     This recipe makes enough rémoulade for 1 large serving or 2 petite portions!  
     The Gaufrette potatoes can also be dipped in this sauce, so do not be shy about serving up a large portion with today's entree!
     Place 1/4 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of organic catsup.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Neon Relish or Chicago Style Relish.
     Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced Vidalia Sweet Onion.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Creole Mustard.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced fresh marjoram.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. 
     Mix the ingredients together.  (Or pulse a blending wand in the mixture for a few seconds to produce a refined looking remoulade like the one in the pictures above
     Chill the sauce for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.   

     Gaufrette Potatoes:  
     Follow this hyperlink that opens a separate window.  Information about French Mandolin Kitchen Tools and the Gaufrette Recipe will appear:  Gaufrette Potatoes
     Be sure to keep the gaufrette potatoes warm on a stove top.

     Grilled Heirloom San Marzano Tomato:
     Care must be taken to not overcook a San Marzano Tomato, because these tomatoes become very tender in a short amount of time!
     Split a medium size Heirloom San Marzano Tomato in half lengthwise.
     Lightly season the tomato with sea salt and black pepper.
     Heat a non-stick (or seasoned) sauté pan or griddle over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Grill the tomato halves on both sides, till the tomato becomes warm and it just starts to become tender.
     Keep the grilled tomato warm on a stove top.   

     Southern Fried Frog Legs:  
     This recipe yields 1 petite entree portion or appetizer portion! 
     Southern Fried refers to pan frying in a cast iron skillet.  Lard or a combination of lard, bacon grease and chicken grease is used as a frying medium.  Buttermilk and seasoned flour is most often used as a coating in a southern fried style recipe.  
     Heat some lard or vegetable frying oil (or a combination of both) in a deep cast iron skillet to 360º.  The oil should be about 1/2" to 3/4" deep.
     Select 2 pairs of meaty large frog legs.
     Use a large chef knife or kitchen shears to cut through the hip joint.  Trim off any excess cartilage flash.
     Dredge the frog legs in flour that is seasoned with sea salt and white pepper.
     Dredge the floured floured frog legs in buttermilk.
     Dredge the frog legs in the seasoned flour to create a thin coating.
     Place the coated frog legs in the hot oil and lard.
     Fry till the bottom half of each frog leg turns golden brown.
     Use tongs to turn the frog legs.
     Fry on both sides, till the frog legs become a crispy golden brown.  (CGB!)
     Place the pan fried frog legs on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess lard or oil.  Keep the frog legs warm on a stove top.

     Southern Fried Frog Legs with Marjoram Neon Relish Louisiana Remoulade - Grilled Heirloom San Marzano Tomato and Gaufrette Potatoes:
     Place a large ramekin of the Marjoram Neon Relish Louisiana Remoulade on the back center of a plate.
     Carefully arrange a small mound of Gaufrette Potatoes on the center of the plate.
     Carefully lean the Southern Fried Frog Legs on the Gaufrette Chips, so they fan out from the center of the chip toward the front of the plate.  (I do say carefully, because gaufrette potatoes will easily break!)
     Plate the Grilled San Marzano Tomato halves on bot sides of the ramekin.
     Garnish the remoulade with a marjoram sprig.

     Viola!  A classic Louisiana style plate of good old fashioned southern fried frog legs.  Yum!

The 99 Ranch Market in Chinatown, Las Vegas!


     This article was edited on 9-10-2014.  A few photos from a recent shopping trip were added!  The publishing date was changed to today's date, because this market is still as great as it was several years ago.  

     I have shopped at the 99 Ranch Market in Chinatown, Las Vegas for many years.  The 99 Ranch Market is a busy market that offers a vast selection of great Asian food!

     The 99 Ranch Market is located in the plaza at 4155 Spring Mountain Road at the intersection of South Valley View.  The Chinatown Mall, The Performing Arts Theatre, The Diamond Bakery, Sam Woo BBQ, Mother's Korean Grill,  a Chinese natural medicine pharmacy, Spicy City, Kapit Bahay Filipino Fast Food and the Harbor Palace are just a few of the great businesses that are located at this plaza.

     The 99 Ranch Market is not your typical asian market!  The produce section is stocked with many exotic fruits and vegetables that are rarely seen in common grocery stores.  The prices are reasonable, because this market has a high customer flow volume.
     Today I bought Indian bitter melon, fresh purple yam, Thai eggplant, Thai basil, mushrooms, green onions and lotus root.  All the items were very fresh and ripe!  A wide variety of fresh mushrooms were stocked.  King Trumpet, oyster, beech, brown beech, cows ear fungus, shiitake, Chinese black mushrooms and several other fungi varieties were offered fresh!  Jackfruit and durian are huge fruits that can weigh over 30 pounds and they were cut into manageable portions.  A nice selection of fresh Asian herbs were on the shelves too.  Fresh herbs are essential when cooking Vietnamese cuisine.

     The butcher shop is devoted to pork!  Some of the cleanest, nicest cuts of pork were offered at the butcher shop. The butchers at the 99 Ranch Market are some of the highest skilled craftsman that I have ever seen.  An apprentice butcher would be lucky to work with this crew.  The butcher shop was so busy, that the sound of meat saws was non stop!  Every cut of pork that you could imagine was offered at the butcher shop.  I selected a pork tenderloin that was on sale.  The pork tenderloin was the cleanest, masterfully butchered pork tenderloin that I have seen in years!  Absolutely no silver floss or fat was on the tenderloin at all.
     The butcher shop meat department had a large selection of chicken, duck, squab and quail.  Duck tongue was on the shelf and that is a gourmet item that I have been wanting to post in a recipe.  Deer meat was stocked too.  Every item is packaged with perfection in mind and all it takes is one look to see that the butchers package food items in a way that can only be described as professional.  These butchers are masters of their art!

     The tofu and bean curd section in the market was extensive.  The noodle and dried goods aisle offered a great selection.  Spices were cheap.  The canned and bottled goods aisles were stocked full of common and specialty asian items.  A great selection of Chinese vinegars and regional cooking wines were stocked.
     Dried, salted and fresh seaweed was offered.  Any kind of dried fish, shrimp, squid or jellyfish was offered.  Ready to eat jellyfish was stocked too.  I purchased some fish meal balls that were stuffed with roe.
     A very large variety of dim sum creations, bean cakes, dumplings, fish balls and steam buns were offered in the frozen food aisle.

     The frozen seafood aisle offered one of the largest varieties of exotic seafood that I have ever seen!  Varieties of sea cucumber were offered fresh and frozen.  Frozen nhong (Thai silk worms) was an item that I could not resist buying!  Nhong was in the seafood section freezer with other specialty items.
     The fresh seafood market offered a very extensive selection of fresh fish and most of the items were sustainable.  The live seafood section was remarkably clean and well kept!  Large aquarium tanks with several popular kinds of live fish were awesome to look at!  Live seafood is not something that is offered in most American grocery stores, but it is commonplace in asian markets.  It simply does not get any fresher than live!  Large live prawns and shellfish were offered.  Periwinkles and cockles were offered and they are hard to find!  The Maine lobsters in the tank were huge and very lively!

     Rice wines and fruit wines from asia were offered as well as Chinese brands of cigarettes.  There is a section of the store that is devoted to low price table wines and wines used for cooking.  There is also a glass display case by the customer service counter that contains premium quality Chinese wine.  Some of the very best traditional Shaoxing Wine can be found in this display case.  There is a world of difference in quality between a Shaoxing Wine that is meant to be used for cooking and one that is meant to be served on a special occasion.  A very nice selection was posted in the pictures above.

     Asian beauty products, cooking utensils and table settings were up for sale.  Traditional rice bowls, banchan side dishes, noodle bowls and elegant chopsticks can be found in this merchandise aisle.

     There is so many great items to choose from at the 99 Ranch Market, that I cannot possibly list them all!  If you are into reading labels and window shopping, then you could get a great education on Asian food at this market.  If you are into shopping for difficult to find Asian specialty food items, then moderation must be exerted, because the vast selection is so great, that it is all too easy to fill the grocery cart till it overflows!

     I must say, like every asian market, the aisles are narrow and making way for other busy shoppers is part of being polite.  It seemed like every time that I got out of the way of another shopper, I was forced to look at an interesting item on a shelf that I had never seen before.  I got the feeling that I was being directed to focus on certain items in the store.  Communication like this is something that has to be experienced to be understood.  The funny thing is, this experience is like being a human pinball in an Asian food shopper pachinko game.  This experience led to many comical moments that only a smile and laughter can express!

     The 99 Ranch Market staff were very attentive and courteous.  Some English and Spanish is spoken and several Asian languages are spoken fluently, so there is no need to be shy about asking questions.  The Asian customers like to be of help with questions too and they get a kick out of how Americans mispronounce nearly every Asian word.
     Funny moments can occur when trying to phonetically pronounce the words on some of the Asian food product labels!  Even orating English language words on product labels can lead to hilarious moments, like when asking which kind of fish balls would be best for a certain Thai soup!  Sometimes it is wiser to just point at a product than it is to try to say the words out loud, because the meaning may not be what one expects, especially when Vietnamese pho products are involved.  Las Vegas is a place where something funny is cherished, so never feel embarrassed if innocent words lead to laugher!

     I more than just merely recommend the 99 Ranch Market for those who seek a great Asian food marketplace!  The selection, variety and quality of the food is superb.  The prices are right too!  The pictures above are of a few of the items that I brought home today.  Yum!