Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ca Nuong--Roasted Catfish

Roasted whole catfish is one of my many favorite vietnamese dishes, and one of the healthiest.  This dish uses very little oil, catfish's high in omega-3 fatty acids, and it's eaten with lots of veggies. 

The problem is, the way I love it cooked is with the whole catfish DEEP FRIED so the skin's crispy and the fish is juicy on the inside.  It's also one of my mom's time saving tricks.  You go to the asian supermarket, buy two catfish, have them clean, gut, and deep fry 'em for you.  Then you walk out with two parchment wrapped fish bouquets smelling like fried goodness.  Then you go home, top them off with roasted peanuts and scallion oil and crunch and munch away on the crispy skin.  THAT's how I like my Ca Nuong--fast, fried, and delicious.  Fish skin should always be crispy in my (and George's) book. 

But since our seafood section of the asian market only cleans and doesn't deep fry, I have to roast the damn thing in the oven.  All around bOooOs from George because there was no crispy fried skin and it was a healthier meal.  But it was still so good!

The end product:
Ca Nuong topped with scallion oil and roasted peanuts.  Hats off to whoever discovered the combo of fish, green onions and peanuts, wrapped in rice paper, dipped in spicy fish sauce.  GENIUS!

Step 1: Get your catfish cleaned and gutted at the supermarket.  Some places will also clean off the black skin for you, some won't.

Step 1a: My super market didn't so I took an extra step at home.  To clean off the black gook on the skin (which gives the fish a fishier smell and taste AND will prevent your fish from getting a gorgeous brown color), dunk it for 1 minute in boiling water.  Then take it out and scrape off the black gook w/ a brillow pad.  I used a butter knife..which left knife marks on my fish =(.  Don't do that...=/

I cleaned some black off but it could have been cleaner.  Anyways, HUNGRY.
Step 2: Rub your fish down ..heheheh. 
On the skin, rub about 1/8 cup of honey per fish.  This will get you that delicious brown roasted color and crispy skin (not as crispy as deep frying =( but whatever!)
Then rub on olive oil, salt, pepper, minced ginger, a couple swigs of fish sauce mixture on the outside + inside of the fish.  Some people also use minced lemongrass.  I should have been more generous with my seasonings.

Step 2a: Marinade for a few hours or over night..I baked it right away.  Too hungry!
ALSO: I should have done this --make 3 slits just barely through the skin of your fish on both sides.  This relievs the tension on the skin when you roast at high temperature  so the skin crisps up instead of tearing like mine did. 

Step 3: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  If you fridgerated your fish to marinate, take it out and let it come to room temperature.  Then pop it in the oven.
For a 3lb fish, it's about 40 mins.  My fish was a lot smaller, around 1.5 lbs, so roast for about 15 mins.
During the last 5 mins, turn it up to BROIL for a crispy golden color.  Make sure you watch the fish so it doens't burn!
(Looks creepy i know...but it'll taste good! Promise!)

Step 4: Meanwhile, make your Nuoc Mam Cham dipping sauce.  If you need a recipe, The Ravenous Couple (recipe)--one of my go to blogs for Viet food has a great one.  I just went by taste to make my sauce.

* 1 cup of hot water
4 tablespoons of sugar
* juice of about 1 whole lime
* 6-8 cut thai chile peppers (I like it spicy!!)
* 5 cloves of minced garlic (I like it garlicky!)
* 1/4 cup fish sauce.
* Adjust to taste. It should be sweet, with a small hint of sour (and if you prefer, a kick of garlic and spicyness!)
* some people also add pickled carrots & daikon (recipe)

Step 5: Toast your peanuts.  Watch 'em and move them around, these suckers burn FAST!

Step 5: I like lots of peanuts and scallion oil on my fish.  I chopped up about two bunches of green onions , then add olive oil to the height in the picture.  Let it soak in lowwww heat then remove off heat once the onions have slightly wilted.  We don't want the green onions to turn brown.

Step 6:  Once the catfish's done, top it off with scallions in oil, and tons of roasted peantus.
I'm ghetto so I lined my table with old Washington Posts for easy breezy clean up!  Fish sauce is NO joke if you get it on your table!

My ginormo roll--some veggies, some fish, lots of skin, lots of peanuts and green onions.  Now dip baby dippppppppp ! Let me see that ca nuong roll =D

It was good but not greeaaat--I must get a deep fryer!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Beat the Heat!!

BAH!  This weather is madness! It's like walking around in a sauna, with hot sticky icky humid 102 degree air blowing at your face all day and night, evvuuurrryyyday--THEN out of nowhere, crazy lighting thunderstorms!  I form puddles of sweat just standing still!  I said I'm going to enjoy everything the east coast has to offer while I'm here so...ok..here goes another hot summer!

So to stay cool, aside from staying indoors at work all day long (yuck) for the FREE AC (yay!), I sneak out for the occasional happy hour drinks to keep me cool and fuzzzyyy =)  Especially $5 mango mojitos!

Lets be serious, I go to happy hour for the cheap-o food.  Sometimes I just order water.  I'm a bartender's worst nightmare. 

Ducking into every other store for free ac to cool off is the best!! And a little fro' yo from Red Mango topped with mochi and mango chunks hits the spot!

Aaah, I'm a weirdo and always seem to want hot soup in crazy hot weather.  Back in CA, we used to do hot pot dinners in 100 degree heat and just have fans blasting at our faces while we dunked raw meats and veggies into boiling spicy broth.  It's a good ol' time sweating everything out!  Plus, it's liiikkeee  excercising while you eat..right?
So last friday we went to Toki Underground for ramen..in an "up and coming" area of H street--which is kinda like the Tenderloin area in S.F..so you have to lock your car door and watch your back!  It has a great dive, hipster vibe.  We parked illegally in an Autozone parking lot and went in search of Toki Underground.
First of all, it's not underground.  Second, neither the address or the restaurant name is visible.  Its only identification is this dinky door, with thisss symbol and the entrance is next to a crowded bar! 

I really like the feel of the place.  It sits on top of a bar, low lighting, cute little trinkets, literally a hole in the wall!

mmmm...yums.  Apple soda

Already makes me smile--a giant fatty bowl of broth, al dente noodles, with runny egg yolks, rolled up crunchy veggies, tender stewed pork, and seaweed! I'm gidddy!  I love comfort food.

Eat, sweat, eat, sweat

4 stars, 387 Reviews on Yelp.  If I didn't know any better, I'd say this place was something special, a gem find.  It's great for D.C's standard which really only has a handful of good ramen places, not including places out in Maryland.  The broth's really flavorful, fatty-- that nice murky brown that can only come from stewing fatty pieces of pork all day long!  I'm defintely coming back here to try other stuff.  I also want to try Sakuramen --another well known ramen place in D.C.  But having eaten at some pretty good ramen places in CA and NYC, D.C's still got a bit to go to compete!

 OH in case you were wondering what kind of bi-polar weather we're dealing with--> watch the video.  102 heat, then crazy storms!!! BAH!  (please excuse the dramatic narration and curse words..I was TOO excited!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Happy July 4th!!!

I can't believe it's already our 2nd July 4th in D.C! Time flies by fast!!  This year a couple of our dear friends came to celebrate with us and as usual, we ate lots of fatty foods, stayed up late, and even managed to squeeze in some gambling.  All while sweating like fatty pigs in 102 degree heat!

A lil' half smoked, chilli cheese fries, and fried chicken to start off the mid week holiday!!.

cupcakes, macarons, happy hour boozing (and yummy grilled squid!), and fatty steaks!

Some Viet food action--snails in coconut sauce, shaken beef (bo luc lac), grilled clams and mussels topped with sauteed green onions, peanuts and shallots, crab fried rice, and the infamous Ray's Burgers

night time strolling and shenanigans.

I still get excited about this view...

Stuffing our faces before heading to see fireworks.  This year instead of trekking into D.C, we just walked to Iwo Jima from our apartment, found a nice spot amongst the crowds and stared right into D.C to see the fireworks shooting from the Monument.

Sitting, the asian way!

Not a bad view at all!! Congress, Monument, and Lincoln all visible from our seat in Virginia!  And we didn't have to deal w/ the mad metro crowd!

After a 6 hour gambling trip (and winning!), complete with spooky ghost stories, singing to sappy love songs, and telling stories of relationships' past (ahem, QUANG!), we decided to feast on a giant ass Korean bbq meal at 4:30 a.m.  The sun was up by the time we left the restaurant at 6:30 a.m.  BED by 7 a.m.  Then I had to drag my ass to work til 8 p.m =((

Somehow we all managed to get up to grab our last lunch together before everyone headed to the airport and I had to go to work...
Van's obsessed with the white chocolate blondie spread from this place, jacked some for his plane ride and even bought a jar =p (fatty pants)

It was so nice seeing everyone =)Happy Birthday America!!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chipotle Chiles Chicken

YOU MUST TRY THIS RECIPE!  New ingredient revelation--Chipotle Chiles in Adobo sauce is the ****!!!!!

Flava town in a can!

I made this dish last Wednesday night to pack for Thursday's lunch.  I received a text from George Thursday morning at breakfast:  "This is sooo gooood.  This is a game changer."  Whatever that means..lol!  But please please please I beg of you--cook this!

I saw this dish on http://sodelushious.com/ -- a food blog that belongs to singer John Legend's super hot super model Thai and Norwegian mix gf, Chrissy Teigen.  She can cook, actually eats what she cooks, and is pretty to look at (for you non-cooking boys)!

Her recipe is really quick and simple and can be found on her blog.  I found another recipe that added a couple more spices to the mix so I just combined the two together--not that this dish needed any more flavor!

Also, the day before I made chicken guisado and already had half of my ingredients ready to go!

Chipotle Chiles Chicken Recipe:

Throw all of this into a food processor:

* 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce.  (They also sell them in small cans so I just used 1 whole small can)
* ~ 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
* 1 tablespoon tomato paste (Chrissy said to use ketchup and the other recipe didn't mention it.  I find that it gives the sauce more body)
* 1 tablespoon adobo sauce, from chipotle can (I dumped the entire can into the food processor =D)
* a giant handful of garlic! LOTS of garlic! I LOVE garlic!!
* 1/2 red/yellow onion
* 2 teaspoons light brown sugar (I used trader joes cane sugar)
* salt to taste
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 tablespoon of paprika (I used smoked papikra)
* 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon of chili powder
* some cilantro

Hit pureee and that's it!!!! Taste and flavor to your liking.  Be careful! This thing packs major HEAT!

Now get ready to slather this baby all over your thighs and breasts--chicken that is, grilled giant prawns on salad with avocados, and soooo good as a salsa for chips and mmm juevo rancheros! 

I made mine with chicken thighs--browned them with salt n' peppa, tons of garlic powder, then simmered them in the sauce til the chicken got nice and tender.  I served it with basmati rice, fried plantains, and fresh corn because they're in season!

 I already made this twice in 1 week!! SOO GOOD!

Chrissy' tip: to freeze this sauce and for pure awesomeness, add in
* 3 tablespoons tequila or vodka to keep the sauce slushie-like for easy defrosting for future use.

Hopefully this is another non-boring chicken dinner recipe you can add to your repertoire!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pollo Guisado and Home-made Flan!

Last tuesday I was a hungry monster and was dead set on making pollo guisado and home made flan.  Problem--I had just worked 11 hours and was exhausted.  BUT, my rule of thumb is you must always obey the stomach when it craves for something.  Plus I haven't posted a cooking blog in awhile so lets get cooking!!

Dish #1: Pollo Guisado
My craving for pollo guisado came from a visit to the Dominican Republic embassy.  They were serving it for lunch and it looked scrumptious!  When I went to look for a recipe, there was oddly a lot of food trash talking online between dominicans and puerto ricans staking out this dish as their own national dish.  And here I am, Vietnamese, and blogging about pollo guisado--hah!.  Whoever made it, at the end of the day, it's a yummy (and easy!) braised chicken stew joining all the flavors you probably already know and love to cook with.  This dish....it's going to wipe out the hump day blues! 

Note: This is a moshposh of 4 recipes that I mixed together.  Everyone has different ways of making it and this is my version:

For 2 people:
* 4 chicken thighs with bone and skin on (I like skin and the bones gives it more flavor while braising)
* salt and freshly ground black pepper (it makes a huge difference)
* garlic powder
* olive oil
* 1 green bell pepper--finely chopped
* 1 bunch of cilantro
* 1 small red/yellow onion, quartered.  (I also threw in some delicious pearl onions that a friend randomly gave us from his garden!)
*2 plum tomatoes, quartered.
* 1 tablespoon or so of tomato paste
* a buttload of fresh mashed garlic.  I LOVE garlic!
* 1-2 pinches of oregano
* 1 habenero
* 1 packet of Goya sazon con azafran seasoning (if you wanna get fancy with it, add a SMALL pinch of saffron).  Albertsons, Giant, Hmart has this seasoning.
* 2 potatoes cut into chunks
* 1-2 cups of chicken stock as needed (~1 can of stock)

1) Get all ingredients together.  I like to keep my surroundings really clean and clean while I cook.
Pat the chicken dry, season both sides with salt n' peppa and lots of garlic powder!

2) Always brown/sear your meat to get a nice color and crust before you braise it for maximum flava!

3) Meanwhile, chop up your veggies

3) Remove your chicken from the frying pan once it's brown.  Add in your diced bell peppers, onions and the buttload of smashed garlic!  Saute those suckers in the same oil you seared the chicken in on low heat til the onions get translucent.

4) Then add in your cubed tomatoes, a pinch of oregano, and a handful of coarsely chopped cilantro.  I also like to layer flavors by LIGHTLY salting at different times. KEEP TASTING while you cook!

Colors of the Dominican flag--minus the blue.

5) Once the tomatoes and everything cooks down (about 5-10 mins ), add in your sazon con azafran packet.  OOoh and Aaah as you see the beautiful color! 

6) Now add about a tablespoon of tomato paste and the habeneros.  I like it real spicy so in goes all the seeds!! (stand back, don't let crazy habenero steam get into your eyes!)  Stir, cover, let it simmer for 5 mins.

7) Add back your chicken, skin side up, and pour in enough chicken stock to only cover half the chicken.  If you cover the chicken completely, the chicken skin will cook off the meat, resulting in soft fatty chicken skin floating around your stew...ew! Cover and braise for 15 mins on low-med heat.  Remember to stir the bottom of the pan frequently so it doesn't burn and add more chicken stock as needed!!!

8) After 15 mins, add in your cubed potatoes.  (note to self--use a bigger pan you fatass!!) Re-cover and braise til the potatoes are done and thighs are super tender (~15-20 more mins).  REMEMBER, check regularly and stir the bottom !

9) And voila! Ready to EAT! Top it off with more cilantro and you've got a hearty (and healthy) flavorful chicken dish!

Now normal people would stop here..but while the chicken was braising, I started my flan!  Man I loveee flan!  Growing up my mom would make us instant flan out of the box--equally yums but recently I had the lightest, creamiest flan at Jose Andres' restaurant, Jaleo.  I found his recipe online and had to make it.  The idea that I could eat his creamy flan everyday was enough motivation!

Trick to this dish is p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e.  Chef Andres cooks the custard longer and at really low heat so the eggs gently coagulate which produces a silky mouth-feel. The flan separates—the bottom half is creamy, the top more jelled.  Not your dense, rubbery, and marred by air bubbles flan!

Dish #2: Jose Andres' Flan Recipe:

For the caramel sauce:
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup of water

For the custard:
* 3/4 cup sugar (I found this to be a little too sweet so whenI made it a 2nd time,  I only used 2/4 cup (next time I might even go for only 1/4 cup).  Just add more caramel to your flan later when you eat if you want it to be sweeter.)
* 1/2 cup half-and-half
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1 vanilla bean, split  (We ain't rich Jose.  I used 1 1/2-2 teaspoon of good trader joes vanilla extract)
* 1 lemon peel (love this!!)
* 1 cinnamon stick (I just shook in ~1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon spice)
* 3 large eggs
* 2 large egg yolks
* Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees.

1) Caramel-ing!:  melt your sugar on LOW heat and watch it!  A burnt pan full of sugar is a nightmare! 

If you're scared it'll burn, add in a little bit of water from your 1/2 cup of water.

2) Custard Part 1: while watching the caramel carefully, get your half n' half, heavy cream, vanilla extra, lemon peel and cinnamon into the pot.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, removing the pan from the heat just as it reaches a boil.

mmm..smells so good

Ok, this dinky lemon peel makes all the difference.  You really taste the lightness and freshness it brings to the custard!  Hell, next time, I might just buy the boxed flan and boil in the lemon peel!


3) Custard Part 2:  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks.
I've already got 3 whole eggs in the bowl, now I'm just extracting my 2 whole egg yolks.

4) Carefully & SLOWLY pour the hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking vigorously in the bowl so you don't cook the eggs and end up with ..sweet scrambled eggs

Caramel's done!

5) Take the hot caramel off the heat and add in the remaining 1/2 cup of water.  The caramel will sputter and release steam and harden.  Pop it back on at low heat and re-melt.  Now you have caramel sauce!!

6) Cool off the caramel sauce a bit then coat the bottoms of the ramekins with 1-2 teaspoons of caramel sauce.

7) Slowly pour the custard on top.

8) Fill hot water midway up the ramekins so you create a slow warm bath during cooking

8) Pop in the oven at 275 for 45-55 mins.

Out of the oven!!! EEK! =D Be patient and fridgerate overnight to let it set and then get ALL over thizzzz!

All packed for lunch! Now thisss gets me out of bed and off to work!

Of course I had to share some with George too...who was busy playing diablo allllll night!

For next time:

1) Pollo Guisado: try it with red and orange bell peppers to add different flavors.  I also ran out of bay leaves this time--add 1 leaf next time, add 2 habs, and make MORE!

2) Flan: get real vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks! yum!


Next up, chipotle chiles chicken... oh yeaaaa!