Showing posts with label dinner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dinner. Show all posts

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp (Tom Rim)

My mom did not pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my first day of fourth grade. I barely spoke or knew any English when we first moved to the U.S. from Montreal. There I was in the school cafeteria struggling to find the words to translate banh mi cha lua (Vietnamese pork bologna sandwich) to my peers. I did not have a typical American childhood. 

My parents were boat people and escaped in the early 80s. I was born and raised in Montreal and spent the latter part of my childhood in New York's North Country. I was the only Vietnamese kid in a predominantly Caucasian community and quickly rose to fame as the kid whose mom made homemade eggrolls instead of cupcakes. Even teachers from other classrooms would stop by to hoard their share at potlucks. My dinners did not include meatloaf with mashed potatoes. Occasionally my mom would whip up her version of goulash and tacos whenever I asked for an "American" meal. Now that I am in my late twenties and am on my own, I find myself more and more nostalgic for the Vietnamese foods that I grew up with and have a much deeper appreciation for it. Dinner for us was as simple as a stewed meat or fried fish with a side of fish sauce and savory soups, all served with bowls of white jasmine rice. On the weekends, it would be a treat to have banh cuon (steamed rice cake) or banh xeo (sizzling pancakes). In fact, Buzzfeed pretty much sums up my childhood eats here

Sadly my teenage self never paid attention to my mom's cooking. In the past decade, as I've become more engrossed in food culture and exploring culinary eats, I'm finding myself more in touch with my own cultural background. Even more so now that John and I are together. My parents might not be able to communicate that well in English but food is our common denominator. My mom loves John enough to make his own batch of said famous eggrolls without mushrooms and I love being to share with John, my Irish-American boy, the food that I grew up with. So when my mom isn't around, I've learned to make my own version of Vietnamese eats. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I'm slowly building up my repertoire and my mom is only a Vonage phone call away for tips and questions. 

Tonight I was craving a very simple dish called tom rim aka Vietnamese caramelized shrimp. It's so simple to make yet I never got around to making it until now. It's a rustic dish that is so comforting especially served with a bowl of rice. Some Googling and a phone call later, I found this random recipe to be closest in flavor to that of my childhood memories. I adjusted the recipe a bit by just throwing everything in one pot after making the caramel sauce and soaking the shrimp in salt water beforehand because that's what my mom told me to do. I also didn't have shallots or scallions on hand but it tasted just fine without and added a thai chili in for some heat. Mom also said don't add ginger per some recipes that I saw but do add plenty of pepper. You don't have to go all out with the head-on shrimp but the ones with the shells really make a difference. The sauce sticks to the shell better and prevents the shrimp from overcooking. I can't recall seeing this dish on the menu from the Vietnamese restaurants in the Capital Region, but if you do see it in your travels give it a try and let me know what you think. If you happen to whip a batch up yourself, good for you! Be prepared, fish sauce has a very strong and pungent smell and taste but mellows out with cooking. Fish sauce is the magical ingredient in every Vietnamese dish :) 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Buffalo Mac 'n Cheese

When the buffalo wing craving hits, make a mac 'n cheese version! We all know and love crack dip aka buffalo chicken dip and a comforting cheesy pasta is the perfect vehicle for this dip. I'm terrible at following recipes and usually  just look at the ingredients and throw it all together. I started with a deconstructed buffalo chicken dip by chopping in a blender cooked chicken breast and four garlic cloves. I mixed the chicken in a bowl with roughly 1/4 cup of sour cream and hot sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Toss in some chopped scallions and this could stand on its own as a dip but we're making buffalo chicken mac 'n cheese! On a side note, add some cream cheese and blue cheese to this mixture and it becomes a killer dip.

Ever since discovering this one pot mac 'n cheese method, it's my go to recipe for the ultimate comfort food. Cooking the elbow macs in milk is stupidly simple and just as good as the bechemel cheese sauce version, plus less pots to clean! Just make sure you have lots of milk on hand so you don't burn the pot. After all your cheesy goodness has melted and is a creamy delicious pot of carbs, mix in that buffalo chicken mix and you've got yourself one great meal. What about the celery and blue cheese you ask? Why this celery salad is the perfect accompaniment. Score, who needs to go out for wings? -R

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Brewery Ommegang HopChef

A giant shout out and thank you to M.H.A. Innovations for picking us as the winners of the HopChef Competition Giveaway. We had a blast at this unique food and beer pairing dinner. Seven Capital Region chefs prepared a dish incorporating and paired with a beer from Brewery Ommegang and the winner gets to compete against the other winning Hop Chefs from Chicago, Philly, and Boston in a finale during Ommegang’s Belgium Comes to Cooperstown event in August. Max London's Mark Graham won the judge's pick and Mazzone Hospitality's Will Brown won People's Choice. More from the judge's perspectives at Table Hopping and Notes on Napkins

J is more of the beer expert than I am but we enjoyed sampling and critiquing each dish. We channeled all we learned from watching Chopped marathons on Food Network and were impressed by the Chefs' creative and sophisticated dishes. Here's our take on the HopChef creations, starting with our favorite: