Thursday, May 29, 2014

Amoy Lumpia (Chinese Lumpia)

Recently I made a mad dash flying (or rather, hobbling like a cripple as stated by my dear brother) to see my sister graduate from college. Them, this past weekend, I drove home like a maniac to catch my brother's high school graduation. Nothing like fighting traffic for 4 hours and changing from hospital scrubs to a fancy dress on the highway to arrive only two minutes late.
My grandparents came to visit from the Philippines for all the graduation festivities, and they cooked Amoy Lumpia (Chinese Lumpia) for the graduation party. This is my grandfather's secret recipe, as he came from Amoy (Xiamen). I'm forbidden to give away his secrets, but I managed to beg permission to share the ingredients and a short version of the directions. It's time consuming but a labor of love for my grandpa.
Anyways, I'm heading to Vancouver and Alaska for a family cruise celebrating my grandparents' 50th wedding and my parents' 25th wedding anniversary right after all the graduations. It's been a hectic few weeks, but family time with the whole clan is always fun (albeit a little crazy).

I haven't been on a family vacation since medical school started - two whole years! I got left behind for the Philippines, Hawaii, Las Vegas, and Boston/Philadelphia, but not this trip. You can be sure a lot of eating will be happening.

Light soy sauce, to taste
1/2 lb cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, julienned
1/2 lb pork loin, thinly sliced
1 package firm tofu, sliced in strips (known as tokwa)
1/2 lb snow peas
1/4 lb boiled shrimp peeled and deveined
3 eggs
2/3 cup bean sprouts
6-8 pieces romaine lettuce leaves
lumpia wrappers, fresh
peanuts, crushed with sugar

hoisin sauce
sugar, to taste
Siracha sauce (optional)

Sautee shallots with cabbage, carrots, pork loin, tofu, snow peas, and shrimp, adding soy sauce and sugar to taste. Set aside in a bowl. Strain excess liquid.

Scramble egg into an omelette, and cut into thin strips; set aside. Wash bean spouts and set aside.

To make the sauce, combine hoisin with water to desired consistency in a microwave. Add sugar and Siracha sauce and adjust to taste.

To assemble, place the fresh lumpia wrapper on a plate and spread lettuce. Layer the stir fry, scrambled egg strips, and bean sprouts. Add crushed peanuts and sugar on top. Wrap the lumpia and serve with sauce.
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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spicy Thai Drumsticks

At the end of 3 months, I just finished scrubbing in my last surgery this week. I never thought I'd like the sterile surgery environment, but the operating room (OR) is so exciting. I love poking organs. I love chopping things off. And I love suturing.

Ok, as a medical student, I don't get to do that much, but I can retract! I can suction blood! I can cut strings! I can hand forceps from the nurses to doctors! I can be useful!
I was in a femoral tibial artery bypass for vascular surgery, with stents, embolectomies, and a zillion sutures. For 9 hours straight, I didn't (i.e. couldn't) eat anything, drink anything, go to the bathroom, or leave the OR. Luckily, bodily needs and functions somehow don't seem to matter much when your patient keeps bleeding and bleeding.
Or an 8 hour colon cancer case for general surgery, where we had to remove the stomach, colon, and pancreas. I took specimen pictures (I giant alien-ish invasive tumor) and videotaped the surgeon's pathology report. All my hours of photography practice prior paid off indeed.
Or removing the entire voice box and separating the esophagus and trachea and making a permanent hole in the neck for head and neck surgery. For 8 hours, I retracted the patient's (rather large) neck until my arms were cramping, and I decided I needed to do more weightlifting.
Anyways, a resident gave me suture kits to practice at home.

Chef Uy: Awesome! I can go suture my chicken thighs at home.
Resident: Oh, erm, maybe practice on something you can throw away, like pig's feet. Are you, uh, going to eat that chicken afterwards? 
Chef Uy: Of course! Those sutures will be more sterile than anything in my kitchen. No need to waste food!

Ok, suturing my chicken (and bananas) failed since the skin was too soft and detached from the skin, but it was still good practice for knot tying and handling those tiny needle drivers without stabbing yourself.
And, here's a good way to use up that chicken after suturing (yes, I did eat my chicken after removing my sutures). This is a really easy Thai recipe that's good for potlucks - it's sweet and mildly spicy. Of course, anything with sweet chili sauce and brown sugar is guaranteed to be a winner. Adapted from Christine's Recipes.

Spicy Thai Drumsticks

4 lb chicken drumsticks and thighs
1 stalk lemon grass, finely chopped
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy), plus additional for dipping
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup soy sauce
5 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 stalks cilantro
pepper, to taste
oil, to fry

Combine lemon grass, orange juice, ketchup, chili sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, cilantro, and pepper to make the marinade. Add chicken legs and marinate at least one hour or overnight.

Put a ceramic baking dish in oven, and preheat oven to 375 F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a fry pan. Reserve marinade. Cook drumsticks and brown all sides over medium heat (chicken does not need to be fully cooked).

Transfer chicken to a baking dish and pour the reserved marinade onto the chicken. Bake for 35-40 minutes until cooked. Broil the last 5 min if desired. Remove from oven, and serve with additional chili sauce on the side.
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Monday, May 19, 2014

Duck Pizza with Hoisin and Scallions

Ankle sprains are absolutely dreadful. To make the timing even better, I had to fly to Dallas the next day for my sister's graduation. I was just warming up for taekwondo (never even making it to the actual kicking) when I turned my ankle in first five minutes. Bam! Redness and swelling and horrible pain like I never felt before. It steadily worsened until I couldn't walk 3 feet or even sleep without literally crying from pain.
Luckily, my awesome chief resident had extra crutches and a boot for me, so I could actually hobble along with rounding on the patients.
And then, although my original flight to Dallas was delayed, I managed to get standby on a flight even earlier than my original flight.
And I thought to myself, no way on earth am I willing to wear a boot and crutches for all the photos and family portraits we were taking over the weekend, and my ankle swelling and redness nearly disappeared the next day (vanity is a powerful analgesic, especially when you really want to wear heels).
My friends say I have a knack for always getting what I want. Well, ask and you shall receive! I won't deny I'e been blessed in often getting what I want (with hard work of course). Except.... perfect pizza dough. I begged my sourdough starter for fluffy yet crisp pizza crust, yet was denied half a dozen times. I got lots of bread that tasted like bricks.

Well, I finally got what I wanted. This pizza crust was perfect. The trick is letting the dough rise one last time right before adding toppings and baking so it's ultra light.
I've been wanting to make a duck pizza ever since I had it in a restaurant in Palo Alto years ago. It's the perfect gourmet pizza that's easy and fancy. Adapted from Epicurious.

Duck Pizza with Hoisin and Scallions

1 1/2 cups fed sourdough starter, room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 cups flour (I use 50/50 whole wheat/all purpose)

roasted duck, meat removed from bone
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
5 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

PIZZA CRUST: Combine the sourdough bread starter, flour, salt and olive oil and mix until it forms a dough. Knead for 5-10 minutes until it forms a tight ball and place inside oiled bowl. Rest in the refrigerator several hours or overnight.

Take out the dough and rest in a warm area for a few hours, until doubled. Punch down dough again. Roll and shape dough into final pizza crust on pan and rest in a warm area until risen and fluffy. Use in any pizza recipe

PIZZA:  Heat oven to 500°F or as hot as the oven will go.

Prepare dough into disks and place on parchment paper on a pan. Spread half the hoisin sauce on crust with a pastry brush. Bake for 8-10 minutes (this is to bake the bread without overcooking the roasted duck meat). Remove half baked pizza and top with remaining hoisin sauce, spinach, cheese, bell pepper and duck. Bake an additional 8-10 minutes, until bread is golden and crispy, and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. Slice and serve.
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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Crème Brûlée (without a torch)

I don't think I'm built to run, but I run, so I can eat a lot all the time. A good running partner is surprisingly hard to find - too fast, too slow, too inconsistent. So when you find a match, you can run together so you can eat lots of calories together :)

My regular running buddy, G, requested crème brûlée without a moment's hesitation when I asked what dessert he wanted for his birthday. Crème brûlée is a rich custard topped with a hard crust of caramel (burnt sugar).

Chef Uy: Happy birthday! You can eat all of it, but you'll have to wait after I took photos. Sorry, it took a while to caramelize and I'm running behind.
G: You can do a rain dance for all I care as long as I get to eat it.

G also figured out the real reason why I constantly give him food - my nefarious plan to fatten him up so I can finally outrun him, hehe. No matter how much I try, I have to take three steps for every one of his strides. He always taunts me during our runs, but instead of pushing him into the river (as I wish), I bake him crème brûlée.

It's really quite unfair when your legs are short, but ah, such is life.
The crust is traditionally made with a torch, but who has that? So here's a way to get around that - use the broiler setting in the oven. It's not as evenly caramelized as using a torch, but it gets the job done.
This was originally posted 10/2013, but I had to tweak this recipe (adapted from Allrecipes and Joy of Baking) with a couple tries. Perhaps for the first time ever, the original recipe didn't have enough sugar for my taste. Also, I tried to cheat the calories by using half and half, but heavy cream is a necessity to get that rich texture. And then I tried to reduce the number of eggs yolks, but you need it for the custard to actually set.

Well, now you can learn from my trials and errors and flawlessly have your very own "fancy French dessert" right in your kitchen using this winning combo.

Crème Brûlée 101:
- Do not overbake the custard - the middle should be wobbly and the edges just set
- The custard can be made ahead of time (custard should be set at least several hours prior), but the crust is best made right before serving. The crust will keep at least several hours before softening
- Before making sugar crust, dab the custard with paper towels to remove any condensation/moisture
- Use superfine sugar (ground white sugar), not brown sugar (contains too much moisture) or confectioners sugar (contains cornstarch). Smaller and uniformly sized crystals of sugar will caramelize more quickly and evenly
- For the most even coating, generously fill the top with several tablespoons of sugar and simply shake off the excess
- Keep the custard as cold as possible right before broiling, and place in an icewater bath to avoid further cooking the custard. 
- Place the ramekins as close to the broiler as possible for the fastest, hottest heating (I stacked the water bath tray on other trays to raise it up) and keep the oven ajar to let heat escape. 
- Make sure to avoid burning your roommate's butt or setting your mitt on fire *cough*

Crème Brûlée (without a torch)

4 large egg yolks (may add one more yolk for thicker custard)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
superfine sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Beat egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl until thick and creamy. On stovetop, pour cream into a saucepan and stir over low heat until it almost comes to boil, then remove the cream from heat immediately. Stir cream into the egg yolk mixture; beat until combined.

Optional: pour cream mixture into the top of a double boiler to thicken. Stir until mixture lightly coats the back of a spoon; approximately 3 minutes. Remove mixture from heat.

Pour cream into ramekins places in a water bath, pouring enough hot or boiling water so it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in oven for 35-45 minutes, until custard is just set with a slight wobble in the center**. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.

When ready to serve, set oven to broil. Add 2-3 tablespoons sugar per ramekin, then shake off excess gently to make an even layer over the custard**. Place ramekins under broiler in an ice bath** until sugar melts, about 2 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate until custard is set again.

** see creme brulee 101 tips above
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Monday, May 5, 2014

Authentic Czech Kolaches

Growing up, kolaches meant giant spiral muffins with sausage and broccoli from the local bakery next to the zoo. Then, I thought kolaches were hot dog cheddar rolls wrapped with fluffy bread like pigs-in-a-blanket, thanks to Kolache Factory during our surgery grand rounds. So when I began googling for recipes, I realized I had no idea what kolaches really were.
Actually, kolaches are a round Czech/Slovak pastries made of mildly sweet and dense yeast dough topped with fruit, cheese, or poppy seed fillings. Some recipes call for a crumble topping with butter and sugar called posypka, which is a more recent addition. It differs from a danish since it's less sweet and less buttery/flakey.
Technically, kolaches do not contain meat; those are klobasnek (plural klobasniky or klobasniki). Czech settlers created the klobasniky after they immigrated to Texas, and these are very popular in central and south Texas, caled "the Czech belt." For more history, check out The History Kitchen, The Smithsonian, and The NY Times.
This is an authentic family recipe from a Czech friend, with some adaptations from The History Kitchen.  Next time I would try adding the yolk and butter as well as the posypka to make it fluffier and sweeter. The recipe itself is a labor of love, with all the rising times and homemade fillings, but you can greatly speed it up by using jam (though supposedly, it will bubble over during the baking). I made the mistake of not shaping the dough before the final rise so I had to let it rise a fourth time (the agony of waiting) since it totally deflated when I re-rolled / indented the dough in the baking trays. 

Authentic Czech Kolaches

1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 sifted flour
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, for wash
(optional: 1 additional egg yolk and 1-2 Tbsps of butter for a richer dough if desired)

Cheese Filling
1/2 package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar, to taste
1 large egg yolk
flavoring: 1 tsp vanilla extract, grated lemon zest, and/or ground cinnamon

Poppy Seed Filling
1/2 can Solo Poppy Seed Filling

Dried Fruit Filling
10-15 pieces dried prunes or apricots
3/4 cup orange juice/water, additional if needed
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
sugar, to taste
1-2 tablespoons cornstarch, additional if needed

Sour Cherry Filling
1 can pitted sour cherries, with juices reserved
1/4 cup reserved cherry juice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
sugar, to taste
1-2 tablespoons cornstarch, additional if needed 

Posypka (optional)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Soften the yeast in the warm water. Combine the milk, butter, and salt, and cool to lukewarm. Add one cup flour and mix well. Add the yeast, egg, sugar, and remaining flour and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (dough will be wet).
FYI: I did not do the extra rich dough version but I imagine you mix in in.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double. Punch down and let rise again until double.

Turn out onto lightly floured board. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls, slightly flattened, and place onto baking trays lined with parchment paper. Let rise again until doubled.

Once dough has risen, use thumb to make a large indentation in the center. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Add your fillings in the center, and top with posypka if using. Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown

Cheese Filling: In a medium bowl, beat the cheese and sugar until smooth. Blend in the yolks and flavoring.
Dried Fruit Filling: Optional: soak dried fruit in juice for several hours or overnight beforehand to soften. In a large saucepan, simmer the fruit and liquid until very soft, about 30 minutes - 1 hour. Add sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Mash/blend until smooth. Adjust cornstarch and liquid to make a thick jamlike consistency

Sour Cherry Filling: In a large saucepan, simmer the cherries and liquid until very soft, about 20-30 minutes. Add sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Mash/blend until smooth. Adjust cornstarch and liquid to make a thick jamlike consistency.

Poppyseed Filling: I used canned. Note that it may bubble over while baking.

Posypka: In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Stir in the butter to make fine crumbs.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Beet Salad with Pears and Blue Cheese

When you eat beets, you might find your toilet contents to be redder than expected. This condition is actually called "beeturia" and is also commonly associated with red feces (sorry, after medical school nothing grosses you out anymore). The reddish color results from excreting unmetabolized betalain pigments such as betanin. Beeturia's clinical significance has actually been studied in legit scientific journals, and I kid you not, there is even a case report of beeturia mimicking hematuria (blood in urine).

B's friend ate some beets and panicked when he thought he had a GI (gastrointestinal) bleed the next day. 

*ahem* I confess, a similar panicky reaction might have happened to me too post beets. 

In my defense, GI bleeding is scary, and what is a medical student who has never eaten or used beets before to expect? Ah, too much studying.

Sorry to be gruesome. I just finished general surgery and it was all about blood. (I heart guts!) Now that I've forewarned you of potential side effects of eating beets, eat away and test yourself. Reportedly, only 10-14% of the population gets beeturia (Pubmed).
I made this salad while B was still visiting, using a recipe from our medical cooking class elective. I wanted to be romantic and go on a picnic. The time it took to make the food and drive to two parks to find a picnic spot to took way longer than the 5 minutes it took to wolf down our late lunch when we sat down.

And then a giant dog came over to steal our food. But it's ok, it was still romantic in its own way. And I, dorky medical student, am the queen of romanticism, of course.

Autumn Beet Salad with Pears and Blue Cheese

4 small beets, stems trimmed, gently washed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 lb bacon, cut into 1-inch slices
2 1/2 cups mixed greens
2 Bartlett pears, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup blue cheese
3-4 Tbsp. Sherry Vinaigrette, recipe below

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the beets on a square of foil, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Wrap them in the foil and bake until tender, 45-60 minutes. Allow them to cool, then peel and cut each beet into eights.

Place the bacon lardons in a large pan and cook over medium heat until just rendered and barely crisp, about 4 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

In a medium bowl, toss the mixed greens with the salt, pepper and vinaigrette to taste.

Place a mound of salad on each plate. Scatter the beets, pears, lardons and pecans around and arrange a wedge of cheese on each plate.

Sherry Vinaigrette 

1/2 shallot, minced
6 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
6 extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the shallot, thyme, and a good pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the sherry vinegar and let macerate for 10 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.
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