Saturday, April 19, 2014

New England Clam Chowder

Usually, I have laser focus and epic multitasking abilities. But lately my brain has just shut off.

Like running errands and leaving my phone to charge at home... as well as my credit card. I apologized to the cashier, then drove back home to get my credit card. Then I found out (from the same cashier) my credit card just expired. And that was my backup credit card since my main card expired the week before. And I don't ever carry cash.

Or mortifying myself when I told my chief resident I was done with my note and ready for him to evaluate me. When I opened it, I realized I didn't finish it last night after all, so it was filled with typos and errors. This happened not once but twice. I wanted to curl and die.

Even cooking was no go. I was so psyched to make clam chowder; I ran to the store and got all the ingredients. Except ... when I started cooking, I realized I had bought everything except the clams. It's hard to make clam chowder without clams...

Well then. I'm just too tired.
Chowder, once considered to be "poor man's food," is a seafood or vegetable stew served with milk / cream and often eaten with saltine crackers. Common ingredients include diced potatoes, onions, and celery which are occasionally sautéed in bacon or pork drippings. The term "chowder" may come from the French words calderia or chaudiere (caldron) or the English word jowter (a fish peddler).

Early chowders were quite different - they had no milk or potatoes and were simply fish stew thickened with biscuits. Seafood chowders were originally any fish, but clams chowders are more often see today. By the mid 1800s, several distinct regional chowders had developed, such as the New England clam chowder (contains milk/cream/flour for its white appearance and richness, and including tomatoes is heresy), Manhattan clam chowder (tomatoes rather than milk/cream and omitting potatoes), San Francisco New England Clam Chowder (served in the famous SF sourdough bread bowl), and so on. (source and source).
This is the New England style; it was originally supposed to be the SF version except my sourdough bread came out as flat as pancakes. I prefer lighter rather than thick, overly creamy soups, so I added milk rather than heavy cream and add more broth. Adapted from Cooking Light and Food Network's Dave Lieberman.

1 lb bag frozen clams, undrained
4 bacon slices
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup cubed red potato
1/2 cup corn
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
3 parsley sprigs, plus additional to garnish
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cups whole milk (or half and half)
1/4 cup flour

Defrost clams if frozen and set aside.

Cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp in a large saucepan. Remove bacon, reserving drippings in pan. Crumble bacon; set aside.

Add garlic, onion, celery, and potatoes to the pan with bacon fat; sauté on medium heat until tender, about 5-8 minutes. Add corn, all the spices and herbs (thyme, pepper, bay leaves, paprika, and parsley). Add some chicken broth prevent burning if necessary. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10-15 minutes or until potato is tender.

Combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk until smooth; add to pan along with the remaining chicken broth. Stir in clams and any juices. Cook 5 minutes, until clam shells open.

Serve with bacon. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chocolate Crinkles

Chocolate crinkle cookies have been on my bucket list for a while. They're are sinfully fudgey - basically brownies in cookie form. These are traditionally holiday cookies, but every day is a holiday right? (in my dreams).

Personally, adding cinnamon is my favorite, but other options include adding expresso or chile powder.
They're simple to mix; however, getting them to crack perfectly is the trick. In the first batch, I forgot to roll them in powdered sugar before baking. And rolling them after they're baked turned out to be an epic fail.

The second batch, I rolled them carefully in the sugar and baked them. However, during the rolling and shaping, the cookies had warmed up, so when I took them out, they were normal uncracked chocolate cookies with wimpy powdered sugar on top.

At this point, I wanted to get a hammer and crack them myself.
The third batch, I did some quick online research. Apparently the crack, they have to be cold. Basic physical science from undergrad, right? Heat expands things. Fine, fine I'm a logical cook applying evidence based science. So I chilled the batter in the freezer, then rolled them. But I was too slow, and they were soft so I had to put the entire tray with the shaped balls in the fridge. 

Finally, after waiting forever (ie overnight), I was able to pop them in the oven cold and voila, they came out cracked. To enhance the cracking, when they come out of the oven, gently press down on them to make them spread out. The cookies won't look done, but cookies continue to bake as they cool (rookie mistake to overbake!)
And after all that work to make them perfectly cracked, when I showed them to B, he asked, "The cookies look good, but ... why are they cracked?"
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cups white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (though you can do this with a wooden spoon, too) beat together the cocoa powder, white sugar, and vegetable oil until it comes together into a shiny, gritty, black dough of sorts.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds each. Add the vanilla and beat in thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder if using. Mix into the chocolate mixture on low speed until just combined. Do not overbeat. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill the dough for four hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioner's sugar in a wide bowl. Using a rounded teaspoon get clumps of the chilled dough and roll them into 1-inch (2.5 cm) sized balls using your hands. Roll the balls in the confectioner's sugar and place on the cookie sheets (you should be able to get 12-16 on each sheet). Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool a minute or two on the sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Filipino Pork BBQ

So I've begun my speciality rotation which is vascular surgery. I confess I knew very little about this specialty beforehand, but I signed up for it since a fourth year told me you get to do amputations. Sold.

Since this is my first real surgery rotation,  I had never "scrubbed in" before. Of course operating rooms (OR) are completely sterile since infections are rampant. I've heard horror stories of mean attendings and angry scrub nurses in the OR screaming at you for any wrong doing.
Luckily, this was not the case. In fact, all the nurses were Filipino and adored me, insisting I call them "Tita"(auntie). Something about Filipinos makes them flock together.

Of course, I still didn't know what I was doing. They showed me how to wash my hands properly (10 seconds each side of each finger and palm before moving down the elbow, and always let the water drip off the elbow, never the fingertips.)

Then they handed me a towel to wipe, so I grabbed it like any normal person.
"Anobayan! You can only touch one side of the towel and with only one hand. And make sure you wipe your hands leaning forward." Oops.

You can't touch anything above your shoulder (ie scratch your nose), nor let your arms hang at your side, nor have your arms move behind your back because it's not sterile. Since you can't wrap your waist tie by yourself, you have to give your belt tie to someone and spin around.
"Anobayan! Spin to the left, the left! Ok.

"Tear off your belt tie right now!" They order, so I tear it off.
"Anobayan! You're only supposed only tear off one string!" Oh.

Fortunately, my favorite attending seems to have a soft spot for clueless Chinese-Filipina medical students. And there's nothing cuter than an elderly 6 foot surgeon exclaiming "Anobayan!"with his Greek accent. He jokes the problem with Filipinos in the OR is that they always need to eat, eat, and eat. I confess, when your day starts before 5am, you need two or three breakfasts just to make it to lunch.

Well, Filipinos are always about meals between meals. Pinoy Pork BBQ (marinated pork on bamboo skewers grilled to perfection), is a common street snack I see in Manila sidewalks, and I've wanted to make it forever. Recipe adapted from Fork Spoon Knife.

Fun fact: In the OR, I've been pimped on tons of anatomy. Just to blow my mind, I learned, "pork butt" isn't actually from the butt at's from the shoulder. The cut "pork shoulder" is above "pork butt". The actual butt is "ham". Go figure.

Pork butt comes from the thicker section of the shoulder and has more marbling, ideal for barbeque and pulled pork.

2 lbs pork butt or shoulder, cut into strips
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup  soy sauce
1 cup  sprite or 7-up
1/4 cup catsup
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the garlic, sugar, soy sauce, sprite, catsup and spices to make to make the sauce. Marinate the strips of pork at least 4 hours or overnight.

Skewer the meat by piercing the meat into the barbecue sticks. Continue until all the meat is used up. Grill the barbecue and cook the meat, basting occasionally until the meat is cooked, around 15 minutes.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Easy Chicken Parmesan Pasta

I witnessed my first patient death. I needed comfort food after a day like that - something with carbs, cheese, and olive oil. Like this Chicken Parmesan / Parmigiana (from Allrecipes).

During an ER shift,  the intercom called out incoming level 1 patient with cardiac arrest. I headed over to the critical care "shock room" and saw a mess of blood and a chaotic flurry of people. It's always incredible to watch everyone is running around yet doing what they need to do without colliding (like I would).
Medical student! someone told me. Do you want to do CPR?
Yes! I said excitedly, hoping to be useful. I ran in to relieve the previous person and immediately began chest compressions.

The woman (only afterwards, I found out she was indeed a woman, for I couldn't tell with so much blood and vomit), was old, frail, and clearly very very sick. I was so short I needed to stand on a stool, and I was pushing on her skinny chest with all my might.
I don't even know how much time passed when, suddenly, they called it off - she was deemed deceased at 4:53 pm. Everyone filed out quickly, moving on to their next task. Only two nurses remained behind to put the body in a bag, and I stayed to help.

What do we do with these? I asked, holding her gold watch and dentures in a hazard bag. Just give it to the family, the techs shrugged at me. For these stoic veteran nurses, she was one of many patients who didn't make it. I later looked her up and found out she had longtime stage 4 GI cancer, hence the massive bleed. Lots of GI cancer patients lose all their weight because eating is just a terrible experience and transform into gaunt skeletons. No delicious parmesan flavor, no cherry tomatoes bursting with freshness, no juicy chicken breaded with Panko to enjoy - "food" is just another tube in you.
I felt disturbed I didn't feel that sad. I had never spoken to her and thus had no emotional connection. She had almost zero chance of survival before I even touched her.  But I expected some empathetic burden at the very least -- after all, compassion is sadness over the loss of any human, even strangers, right?

A friend responded, why should the default emotion be sadness and guilt? Her quality of life was terrible.

It's certainly an interesting thought. I hope in heaven or wherever she goes, she can enjoy eating things like chicken parmegiana and pasta again.

1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan and mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper, Italian spices, crushed garlic, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 cup spaghetti, cooked according to directions on package
1 cup marinara pasta sauce
grated cheese
parsley, to garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line baking tray with foil.

In a separate dish, combine the bread crumbs, cheese, and spices. Dip the chicken breasts in the olive oil, then into the bread crumb mixture. Place on baking tray and bake in the oven for 30 min, until no longer pink and juices run clear.

Prepare pasta and add sauce and baked chicken. Add cheese and parsley and serve.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia

Switching from psychiatry to surgery was definitely jarring. It's been a long time since I've done a physical exam on a patient. First day on ER in the country hospital...

*in the midst of mass chaos*
ER Attending:  Go do a full history and physical on a patient now!
Chef Uy: Eh? Touch a patient? What is this stethoscope in my white coat? How do I use it?
But it's official folks, I touched a patient  - I'm a real doc now! Also, I've been learning how to present my patients to my upper levels. Alas, I tend to ramble, but so far it's a work in progress.
It's crazy how many facts you can learn in medical school, yet still no idea how to apply it. And there's zero handholding in surgery from your upper levels, unlike the warm fuzzy psychiatrists previous months.

ER Attending: Patient walks in with chest pain. What's on your differential right now!!
Chef Uy: Uhhhh...heart attack? 
ER Attending: Ok...and what other diseases - name 6 other differentials right now! What labs are you going to order? What about imaging?! What are you going to do with the patient now - admit or discharge?! Any consults? This is the ER, so there's no time to waste!
Chef Uy: halp plz
Oh man and the overnight shifts are death. I did 7pm to 7am back to back on Fri to Sat and Sat to Sun. My friend suggested waking up at 4am so you "get tired and nap in the afternoon then start at 7pm fresh."

Guess what. You aren't ever fresh when you wake up at 4am that day no matter how much you nap.
You never have downtime - it's 12 hours of straight walking (running, actually). I calculated, if walking one hour burns 150 calories, then walking 12 hours burns 1800 calories. That's a lot of Ben and Jerry's I can eat. Hence all this Cherry Garcia ice cream. Homemade ice cream is the best way to comfort myself after a long, long day. Doctor's orders.
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
3/4 cup cherries (I used frozen)
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

Heat the milk in a medium-sized saucepan.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar. Slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs, stirring so they cook but not scramble. Return to saucepan; add extract and heat until thick enough to coat back of a spoon.

Remove from heat, scrape into a bowl, and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Freeze the gelato in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In the last 5 minutes when ice cream is nearly ready, add cherries and chocolate chunks

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Birthday Coconut Banana Cream Pie

Since my birthday is here, I knew I needed a birthday dessert.  I blame B, he told me I had to take time off to "relax and bake." I had a ton of ripening bananas from the VA hospital break room, so I wanted to remake this coconut banana cream pie recipe using my tart tins. 

I can't believe it's my first full weekend off in forever. What are weekends again?
Coconut Banana Cream Pie Graham Crust
Friday was supposed to be our last day on vascular surgery. However, the fellow on call, Dr. L, demanded to my partner that we come in this weekend anyway. Weekend call with her = intimidating.

It was going to be a long final day since surgeries were scheduled til 7pm (and surgeries are always running behind). While waiting for the last surgery in the student call room (basically a dorm with a bed, closet, and bathroom), my partner fell asleep on the bed with his feet propped up on the table, not even trying to hide his nap. I tried to study / not doze off as well, mourning the loss of my birthday weekend. It was a very real possibility that I might miss my own birthday dinner if a late add-on surgery case came up on Saturday.

And of course, the other super nice fellow Dr. M just happens to coincidentally pop his head into our room (for the first time ever), asking what we were up to, and I told him how we were just waiting for the last case since the current angiogram case had a lot of radiation and we had already seen a lot of them.

Dr. M: Just go home! 
Chef Uy: Eh? But the last case...
Dr. M: Just go home! The IVC filter is almost the same as an angiogram. 
Chef Uy: But, but....we worked less than 12 hours today ...  how can this be? O_o
Dr. M: Good luck with the next rotation and enjoy your free weekend. 
Chef Uy: We... free... weekend? (Can you tell I'm in shock?)
Dr. M: You've had long hours, so get some sleep. Especially your partner over there.

We chatted for a bit, Dr. M giving great advice about surgery as a career. Afterwards, I dashed to back our student room, shook my partner violently (he was still passed out) and said we were done and had the weekend off.

Needless to say, if your upper level says for you to go home and take the weekend off, you don't. ever. question it. We split like those bananas in this pie.

Healthy Coconut Cream Tart Banana Cream Tart
(Recipe originally posted Sept 2010) 
Coconut Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Cream Pie 
We had extra bananas that were really ripe, so I decided to make a banana cream pie. However this crust was too much for one pie tin so I decided to make two pies, one banana and one coconut. However, the recipe's coconut filling was too sweet for me and there was a LOT of filling for one pie. I hadn't made the banana filling yet, so I decided to combine both cream pies together. Thus, I ended up with this pie. Recipes modified from Bon Appetit and Joy the Baker.

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
peanut butter (optional)

1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs *
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut 
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 banana, sliced
whipped cream
chocolate curls

To make the crust, stir the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter together in a medium bowl until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Add more butter if necessary. Make an even layer of crumbs of the bottom and up the sides of the pie or tart pan. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pie crust on the center rack of the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set crust aside to cool. Optional step: Spread a layer of peanut butter onto the cooled crust.

For the filling, whisk sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and flour in medium bowl. Simmer milk, coconut milk, and shredded coconut in a saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add hot milk mixture to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Return combined mixture to the same saucepan; cook until pastry cream thickens and boils, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and mix in mashed bananas and vanilla extract. 

Transfer filling to crust. Cover and chill overnight (or freeze for several hours). Add sliced bananes, whipped cream, and chocolate curls on top when serving.

*note: for a richer pudding, use only yolks

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Striped Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

During Valentine's I saw chocolate dipped strawberries everywhere and wanted to make some. All the boxed V day chocolate strawberries are always long stemmed. I have no idea why chocolate dipped long stemmed strawberries cost $3 a piece when you can't even eat the long stem. 

B always says I'm "such a guy" and super unromantic, but I digress. I was planning on using normal strawberries for dipping, but while in Chinatown, these gorgeous long stemmed strawberries were on sale. They were the biggest strawberries I had ever seen my whole life. And for only $2 for a 1 lb box! I saw a lady buy at least eight boxes, but I controlled myself and bought only two.
I tried to look up long vs normal strawberrires up but didn't find much information. Apparently, long stemmed and ordinary strawberries are exactly the same fruit. The difference is how they're cut with the runners attached (which takes longer) and must be packed in a single layer to avoid bruising and bouncing around in the box (sources here and here). 
The key to dipping strawberries is making sure the strawberry is completely dry - otherwise the water will cause the chocolate to seize and fall off the fruit. Also make sure there's plenty of cleared out space in the fridge so you can stick these babies right in afterwards.

You can dip them in pure chocolate, although I would have liked to thin it out a little with heavy cream if I had some. White chocolate is trickier to melt, and I had trouble piping it out since it was kind of thick and I was using a ziploc bag, but I'll just pretend the zig zag lines are intentional.

2 lbs strawberries (long stemmed or normal)
10 oz dark chocolate, chips or bars
6 oz white chocolate, chips or bars
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil (optional)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wash strawberries and dry well using paper towels (water will cause the chocolate to not stick or seize)

Over a double boiler or microwaving in 30 second intervals, heat half the chopped chocolate, stirring. One just melted, add the rest of the chopped chocolate to temper. If the chocolate is too thick, add a little butter or vegetable to make it smooth and shiny

Once melted, dip strawberries into the chocolate and shake off excess. Place on parchment paper and let cool.

Over a double boiler or microwaving in 30 second intervals, melt white chocolate until just melted and stir. Add butter or vegetable oil to smooth if desired.

Scoop white chocolate in a ziploc bag and cut off the tip of the bag. Squeeze to stripe the white chocolate over the chocolate dipped strawberries. Chill the strawberries in a refrigerator for 20 min to let the chocolate set and enjoy!