It's pretty unbelievable what a bit of time off will do to my sleeping schedule. I'm a night owl by nature, though my day-job doesn't generally allow me to keep the hours I'd like. So, when I go on vacation, it wreaks havoc on my body's time clock. I've been wandering around in a daze for the past week -- trying to keep my eyes open wide enough to catch up on on all the work that didn't get done over our Christmas "break". And somehow, blogging about all that fun we had fell by the wayside.
We really did have a fabulous celebration. There were just three of us, though you wouldn't know it from the amount of food we managed to make and eat! And this year, I'm pleased to say that quite a few of the dishes we made were inspired by recipes we found on other blogs.
Some of the highlights included steamed Chinese dumplings with eggplant and pork. This was our first crack at homemade dumplings, but it didn't stop us from being creative right off the bat. The filling recipe was an ad-lib work of Asian fusion incorporating hot (Italian) pork sausage, sauteed eggplant, coriander, ginger, garlic, scallions, and a bit of toasted sesame oil. I wasn't sure whether the Italian sausage would play well against the Asian flavors, but it turns out it was really quite good! And now I'm a bit sad that I didn't write down the recipe.
Turns out it's pretty easy to make your own dough for Chinese dumplings (who knew?!). The process takes a bit of time, but doesn't require any fancy ingredients (just flour and water) -- and the final dough is silky, stretchy, and very easy to work with. We used Jen's recipe over at Use Real Butter.
We served the dumplings with one of my favorite Asian dipping sauces -- a mixture of shoyu, mirin, chile garlic sauce, and chopped scallions. You can put together the ingredients in a variety of different combinations to balance the flavor to your own taste. In our case, the dip is on the sweeter side, with a nice jolt of kick from plenty of chile garlic paste.new-found sushi making skills to work, and made up lots of nigiri and maki. Some of our favorites included Alaskan rolls, spicy tuna rolls, and steelhead scallion rolls.
We made up a nice batch of coconut shrimp using one of my favorite recipes. This particular version, based on a recipe from Cooking Light magazine, is baked, rather than fried. Egg whites help the coconut crust to adhere to the shrimp, and it also ensures that the shrimp cook up super crisp. It makes a great appetizer, but it's also not bad as a main dish, served with a big side of Thai-style stir-fried veggies. I like to use unsweetened shredded coconut for my coconut shrimp -- which isn't quite as sweet, but really brings out the true coconut flavor. I also spray the shrimp with coconut oil spray, which intensifies the flavor and helps the shrimp to get seriously crispy in the oven. We served these with the same dipping sauce as the dumplings (why mess with a good thing, right?).
We also tried our hand at creating Chinese Barbequed pork. I used a 2007 recipe from Cook's Illustrated magazine, which caught my eye some time ago after reading about it on Kate in the Kitchen. Kate's analysis of the recipe was right on -- the glaze was sweet, sticky, and beautifully caramelized. And marinating the meat overnight rendered the pork tender and flavorful. The recipe was a bit puttery (most CI recipes seem, to me, to verge on being almost unnecessary in their detailed instructions), but the results were well worth the effort.
Ray's Wine and Spirits here in Milwaukee recommended a delicious, affordable Spanish Verdejo -- Paso a Paso -- which seemed to pair well with absolutely everything), and playing rounds and rounds and rounds of our new favorite board game, Quelf (who can argue with a game that names its characters things like Super Ninja Monkey, The Dude, The Biscuit Farmer, and Queen Spatula??) Played it?? If so, you'll know exactly what I mean.
Even after two whole days of cooking, we still hadn't QUITE used up all of the ingredients we bought. So, we got together yesterday to make a few more rolls of sushi (this time, we went with unagi and California rolls), whip up a batch of crab rangoon, and use up the rest of our eggroll wrappers making deep fried mozzarella sticks. We were so stuffed after that, we never even got around to the tempura...
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