The Colors of Spring

The weather in DC has finally started to transition to spring now. Despite the frost and chill, the cherry blossoms around the basin have still managed to bloom. Sarah and I joined the horde of locals and tourists wandering about the National Mall and Jefferson Memorial to take in the sights. Some people were having picnics. Others meandered at an infuriatingly snail-like pace in the middle of the sidewalk  with their heads in the clouds (or blossoms to be more accurate). Some were busy painting. Numerous were trying to capture the perfect photo in the midst of the chaotic crowds. There was a wedding proposal (she said yes!). We caught a glimpse of the couple huddled together with an expression of mixed joy and fearfulness as the multitude of bodies swarmed around them like a fire ants. Their photographer and family members flitted around them snapping photos furiously.

With the beginning of spring, Sarah and I have also decided that it’s about time to shake off the winter doldrums and shed those winter pounds in anticipation for some more time in the sun. We’ve started a more regimented exercise program (complete with measurements) and diet. As such, I’ve been looking a little at the workouts and diets of body builders. It looks like most tried and true diets consist of chicken breast/fish with rice/sweet potato and broccoli. Now as much as I like simplicity, I don’t think these meals necessarily need to be that bland or boring.

Last week also happened to be the first day of the Dupont farmer’s market after being closed all winter so we wandered down to gather some inspiration and ingredients for meal that would herald the beginning of spring in both flavor and color.

Swiss Chard and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Garlic and Sweet Potato Puree

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  • Chicken Breast                                      2
  • Swiss Chard                                           2 cups, chopped
  • Mushroom (assorted)                          2 cups
  • Garlic                                                      7 cloves, roasted
  • Parmesan cheese                                  1/3 cup, grated
  • Sweet Potato                                          1/4 lb, peeled, cubed and steamed
  • Lemon                                                     1
  • Olive oil
  • Salt                                                           To taste

Let’s break this down to make things a bit more manageable.

Start by turning on oven to broil. Place cloves of garlic on aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes until fragrant and soft.

Chicken Breast

Pat dry chicken breast and season with salt on both side.

If using Joule, place chicken breast into ziploc and drizzle in olive oil. Place in water for 55 minutes at 149 degrees. After done cooking, slice lengthwise but not all the way through. Add stuffing and sear in hot pan.

If not using Joule, carefully slice in half lengthwise but not all the way through. Scoop the stuffing (see below) into the center. In a hot pan, add cooking oil. Add stuffed chicken breast and sear each side for 7 minutes with a lid over the pan.

Stuffing

Finely chop swiss chard, mushrooms, and garlic (4 cloves). Heat a pan to medium high heat. Add cooking oil. Add the stems of the swiss chard first and mushrooms. Salt lightly and sautee. Add garlic and remainder of swiss chard leaves. Salt lightly and continue to sautee. Takes around 10-15 minutes. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top to finish. Add grated Parmesan and mix well.

Puree

Steam cubed sweet potato until soft. Add to food processor along with 3 cloves of roasted garlic. Blend until creamy. You can add a little bit of water to help out with the texture. Salt to taste.

For final plating, spread puree in a circle on bottom of plate. Add stuffed chicken breast. Serve with a side of vegetables (I like having a bitter green).

-D

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Honey and Soy Glazed Salmon

It’s been an entire year since we started this blog! I was wistfully looking back at some of our pictures from our time in culinary school the other day and boy do I miss it. We worked 14 hour days but we had so much fun and learned so much. So many techniques, tips, and recipes we still consistently use today in our every day cooking.

But a picture is worth a thousand words so:

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Honey and Soy Glazed Salmon

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Ingredients:

  • salmon filet                              1 lb, portioned 6-8 oz
  • soy sauce                                  1/4  cup
  • black vinegar                           1 T
  • cooking wine                            2 T
  • honey                                         3T
  • garlic                                          2 cloves, minced
  • ginger                                         1 in segment, peeled and minced

In a large bowl, combine soy sauce, black vinegar, cooking wine, honey, garlic, and ginger. Mix together thoroughly and pour contents into large Ziploc bag. Place salmon in bag and allow to marinate at least 2 hours.

Heat up some oil in a pan to medium high. After removing your salmon from the marinade, make sure to thoroughly pat dry with paper towel and lightly score the skin with a knife before laying the salmon skin-side down in the pan. This is the difference between nice, crispy skin vs soggy mess that curls as you cook. Allow the salmon to cook skin-side down until you see that that it has cooked about 3/4 thickness and flip it to the other side to finish things off. In a separate sauce pan, you can start reducing the leftover marinade. Stir consistently to make sure it doesn’t burn. Drizzle the final product over your finished salmon for more flavor.

-D

 

Going Verde

One week of celebrating our anniversary in Mexico City and one week of battling gastroenteritis (unrelated) later, it’s now March 18th. This marks exactly 1 year since Sarah and I discovered via the voodoo magic that is the Match algorithm, that we’d be spending our next few years in sunny recently sleet and snow-covered DC. Yesterday, another cohort of medical students discovered the next destination on their journey. It was also of course St. Patrick’s Day! So we’re going green.

Unfortunately, I’m not sharing any traditionally Irish recipes, but allow me to reminisce a little about our Mexico City trip and share some good pictures. I’ve mentioned before that one of my food heroes is Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods. So I have a rule that on any international trip, I actively seek out “bizarre” foods. Sarah has half-joked that she should start a photo album of “Dennis Eats Things.”Mexico City definitely did not disappoint. I ate/drank an assortment of insects in various forms, ant larvae, fresh coconut water, and pulque (fermented agave drink) in addition to consuming a small-child’s-weight worth of all the typical tacos, quesadillas, tlacoyo, huaraches, tamales, elotes that dotted the streets.

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One delectable and inescapable element of Mexican cuisine is the sauce or salsa. If you’re lucky, you may stumble upon a taqueria that offers a dizzying selection that you can shameless slather on your platter of tacos. I haven’t yet started trying to recreate every single one we encountered, but here’s a twofer to get started.

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Roasted tomatillo salsa (back) and Avocado cream salsa

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

  • Tomatillos                 4, remove outer husk and rinse well
  • Jalapeno                     1, remove seeds to reduce spice level
  • Garlic                          2 cloves
  • Cilantro                      1/4 cup
  • Olive oil
  • Salt                              To taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatillos, jalapeno, garlic cloves on a large foil sheet. Drizzle on olive oil and sprinkle of salt. Fold foil so that all contents are nicely wrapped in foil package. Place foil package into oven for 30 minutes. This should be enough time to lightly char the tomatillos and jalapeno. Afterward, quarter the the tomatillos. Remove the stem from the jalapeno and seed if desired. Add tomatillos, jalapeno, garlic cloves, and cilantro to a food processor and blend until desire consistency. Add salt to taste. My favorite part of this recipe is that you can taste the change in flavor as the salsa cools. I recommend waiting at least 30 minutes before serving but letting it rest for even longer results in the best flavor.

Avocado Cream Salsa

  • Avocados                 2, pitted
  • Jalapeno                   1, remove seeds if desired
  • Tomatoes                 2, medium
  • Garlic                        3 cloves
  • Cilantro                    1/4 cup
  • Lime                          1, juiced
  • Plain yogurt            1 cup
  • Olive oil
  • Salt                             To taste

This particular salsa is probably one of my favorites. It is the nice cooling and refreshing foil in the myriad of spiciness. Start off exactly the same as the previous recipe (or do both at the same time). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large foil sheet, place jalapeno, tomatoes, garlic and drizzle in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap contents in foil and place in oven for 30 minutes. In the meantime, prep the avocados by removing the pit and cutting the flesh into cubes. You can cut a cross hatch pattern while it is still in the shell and scoop contents into a food processor. Remove foil package from oven when ready. Quarter tomatoes and remove stem from jalapeno (seed if desired). Add tomatoes, jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro into food processor.  Blend until smooth. Add plain yogurt. Blend until smooth. Add salt and lime juice and blend once more. That’s all.*

D

*You may have noticed in the picture that my avocado cream salsa has some red specks of seasoning sprinkled on top. Sarah and I can home with a small jar of sal con chapulines aka grasshopper salt 😉

 

Milestones

We’re back! 75% done with the first year of residency. But even more importantly…

2 days away from our first wedding anniversary!

And of course it’s a new year on the Lunar calendar. While this may seem like a bit of a side note, Lunar New Year has meaning for Sarah and I in addition to all the values, tradition, and culture that I grew up with. Because I proposed to Sarah on Lunar New Year.

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a quick snap for our parents on that day

For those unfamiliar with the story, Sarah was on her surgery rotation at that point in time in medical school. I had come home and began preparing a fairly traditional new year’s dinner consisting of dumplings, noodles, and fish (each dish with its own symbolism). In true surgery fashion, she ended up being delayed in the operating room that day. When she did arrive home, we had dinner together. Afterwards, there still remained the tradition of red envelopes. I had purposely made a show early on that evening about stuffing a few red envelopes with chocolate. While Sarah took a shower, I had wrapped up her wedding ring in chocolate foil and shaped it into the form of the other chocolates and stuffed it in a red envelope. So when Sarah opened her red envelope that evening, she discovered the ring. In a day already full of symbolism, why not add one more symbol to the list and start the year off right. We announced our engagement to our friends a few weeks later at a belated Lunar New Year gathering.

Being away from home on New Year’s is always tough for a day that is supposed to be spent with family. We’ve made the most of it the past few years by having our friends over to celebrate as in many ways, they’ve become members of our new family. This year in DC was no different (although we greatly missed our NOLA family). A few weeks ago, we hosted a bunch of my co-interns and friends at our annual Lunar New Year party. I’ve posted a lot of the recipes that I use already including peanut noodles and dumplings. But I have been holding out on my steamed fish recipe.

Steamed Fish with Ginger and Green Onions

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Ingredients:

  • Fish                                          1 whole, cleaned
  • Green onions                        6
  • Ginger                                     6 large slices
  • Cooking wine                        3 T
  • Salt
  • Soy sauce                                1/2 T
  • Black vinegar                        1/2 T
  • Sesame oil                              1 t
  • Sugar                                        1/2 t

We’ve been pretty spoiled living in New Orleans and having access to some really tasty and cheap fresh fish. For best flavor, try to get whatever local fresh caught white fish is available to you. I used rockfish for my most recent iteration.

To prep your fish, trim off the fins/spines, get rid of the insides, and descale (all this can be done at the store for you if you ask). Slice 3 evenly spaced slits on each side of the fish. Rub cooking wine onto the entire fish including the inside cavity and the slits. Lightly sprinkle some salt on the fish. Place your slices of ginger into the slits on each side. Smash 3 of the green onion stalks with the flat side of your knife. Place it on the bottom of a dish to line it. Place your fish on top of the green onions and place entire dish into a steamer. Depending on the size of your fish, it should steam for about 10-15 minutes.

As the fish is steaming, make a simple sauce to drizzle over. Combine soy sauce, black vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar. Mix well in small bowl. Also slice remaining 3 stalks of green onion longitudinally into thin strips. If you want them to curl for added prettiness, place the strips into a bowl with water and ice.

When the fish is done, carefully remove in from the dish and place it onto a clean plate. If you put our green onions in ice water, make sure to dry them off on some paper towels. Sprinkle your green onions generously over the fish. Pour over the sauce. Serve.

-D

 

 

Eggs of Benediction

It seems like a whirlwind of things have happened in the past few weeks. I had the great pleasure of joining our medical transport team at the hospital and went on my first helicopter flight. Our country underwent a huge transition with the inauguration of a new president. I happened to work as part of the DC Pediatric Medical Reserve Corps on inauguration day (it was just as empty as the photos showed). Sarah and I attended the Women’s March the following day, as did a big group of our co-residents (it was as crowded as the photos).

There have been a lot of executive orders under the new administration that have really riled up the populace, more recently the one on immigration. I proudly stand by the statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But this one hits a bit close to home. My parents and I are first generation immigrants. They worked hard to get to where they are and paved the way for me and my siblings to chase our dreams. Now we’re all contributing members of society. So I can’t help but feel like this immigration order embodies the antithesis of what the United States stands for. Asian American history includes events like the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese Internment Camps that should have taught us valuable lessons. Now that the same prejudice is being applied to our Muslim brothers and sisters, we do ourselves a disservice by not speaking out and allowing history to repeat itself. Like it or not, we are a country of immigrants; a melting pot of color, ethnicity, religion, cuisine, and tradition. That’s what makes this country great. No hate. No division. More love.

Eggs Benedict with Joule (adapted from ChefSteps)

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Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 T water
  • 0.5T salt
  • 3 English muffins
  • Canadian bacon x6
  • Paprika
  • Dill, fresh

Fill a large pot with water. In a ziploc bag, add whole eggs. In a separate bag, add 3 egg yolks, stick of butter, lemon juice, water, and salt. This will be your hollandaise sauce. Place both bags into the large pot of water. You can add some water into the bag with the eggs to help keep it submerged. Set Joule to 145F for 2 hours. When it is about 30 minutes from completion, start toasting muffins and frying up the Canadian bacon. When 2 hr is up, take the bag of hollaindase ingredients and put them into a blender and run until uniform consistency. Crack the eggs over a slotted spoon to reveal perfectly poached eggs. Set eggs over muffin and Canadian bacon. Drizzle hollandaise sauce over. Sprinkle paprika and dill over the top. Serve and enjoy!

D

Wonton to go home

Hey! Don’t worry. We’re still both alive!

2016 was quite the year. It was a year of a lot of firsts for us. First time in culinary school. First (and last) time we got married. First time being a real doctor with our first patients. First time getting a real paycheck in a while. First time we’ve had to work through the holidays. First time we’ve spent Christmas together as our own little family. First time we haven’t seen our families over the holidays (except when my sister came to visit).

Nonetheless if we truly consider home to be where the heart is, then we’ve been truly blessed to have family in CA, Colorado, New Orleans, and now DC.

That being said, prior to last week, Sarah and I hadn’t seen each for close to 2 weeks time thanks to the joys of working opposite schedules. Boy did that suck. We tried to make the best of things; FaceTiming if there was any downtime, leaving notes and pictures for one another, prepping breakfast/dinner for each other to come home to, and of course dressing up our respective pillows in clothes so the other could have a snuggle buddy. I’d like to say that we had quite a lot of fun with the latter endeavor. One morning I had left my pillow surrogate cold and completely uncovered with all the blankets and sheets on Sarah’s side in a little nest. Art imitating life.

Shrimp and Bamboo Wontons

Ingredients:

  • bamboo shoots                                1.5 cups, diced
  • shrimp                                               2 lb, heads removed, cleaned, trimmed, diced
  • ginger                                            2 cm, minced
  • garlic                                              3 cloves, minced
  • cooking wine                                    2 T
  • white pepper                                    1.5 T
  • salt                                                       1 T
  • wonton wrappers                            1 pack, (these should be square shaped)
  • broth
  • green onions                                    garnish 

This is another one of my mom’s recipes that you will find my sister and me requesting every time we go home. It’s simple, but the flavors are absolutely fantastic yet the overall dish is very light.

Start by putting your diced bamboo shoots and shrimp into a large bowl. I leave them in slightly larger chunks because I like the texture. Fresh bamboo shoots are preferable as the preserved ones sometimes leave a slightly sour flavor. Add the minced ginger and garlic, cooking wine, white pepper, and salt. Mix with your hands. There’s really no need for any binder in this recipe as the shrimp serves this purpose. Take your wonton wrapper and place 1 tsp of filling in the center. Lightly run a finger with some water around the edges and fold into a triangle. Fold the ends together once more into the shape seen in the picture. Repeat until you’ve used all your filling and/or wrappers. Heat up the broth to boiling and drop in wontons for 3-5 minutes (you do not want to overcook the shrimp). Garnish with green onions and enjoy.

D

Mulling things over

I first encountered mulled wine over a decade ago, at a Christmas market in tiny Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. I say ‘encountered’ because I honestly can’t remember if I tasted any – I was on a trip with my school orchestra at the time and was a bit of a goody-two-shoes, so I doubt I had the guts to sneak even a sip of alcohol in front of teachers. That said, I definitely remember the smell – boozy, vaguely sweet, spicy with cloves and anise. Inhaling that scent while wandering in the shadows of buildings that looked like gingerbread houses, browsing through stalls of handmade wooden ornaments, candied nuts, and nutcrackers was like walking through a Christmas story. I eventually needed something warm to hold so badly that I settled for hot chocolate. They use the good stuff over in Germany – real  chocolate melted down into hot milk, poured into plastic red cups so flimsy that I wondered if they would melt from the heat.

These days, I still have the wooden ornaments I brought back from Rothenburg, and I am more than old enough to trim the tree with a mug full of mulled wine in hand.  This year marks our first married Christmas, and the first year we’ve spent the actual holiday together, so we’ve been test-driving some new holiday recipes, evaluating for tradition-potential. Our families had very different holiday culinary traditions – my parents have always done a Thanksgiving redux – a roast turkey complete with all the trimmings – while Dennis grew up toasting over a giant hot-pot feast. This year we ate ourselves under the table with a giant portion of prime rib, but I suspect we may trial something different next year. Regardless of what main dish we eventually settle on, I suspect that mulled wine, in some iteration, will be a keeper.

Since you end up adding sugar, citrus, and handfulls of spices, we recommend choosing a cheaper bottle for mulling, though still one you would be willing to drink on its own – we opted for a bottle of 3-buck chuck (love being back in the land of Trader Joe’s). Also, while you can let this simmer away for hours, be aware that some of the alcohol might boil off while cooking. We suspect that we mostly had spicy grape juice by the end of our simmer, as we polished off an entire bottle with nary a buzz between us, and we really don’t drink often enough to be able to pull that off.

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Mulled wine

  • 1 750ml bottle of red wine
  • 1/3 – 1/2 C demerara sugar, to taste
  • 3T mixed whole cloves, allspice, cardamom pods, star anise
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 orange or grapefruit, quartered

Pour the wine into a crock pot or large stock pot and put on low heat. Tie whole spices in muslin or cheesecloth and add to the wine. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add citrus quarters. Heat until fragrant and spiced to taste (sample as you go!)

-S

 

Braised Beef Noodle Soup (紅燒牛肉麵) and the Common Cold

Today was the first day I have ever had to use an ice scraper to chip the nice sheen of ice that had encased my entire car overnight. Quite the right of passage for a west coast boy.

With the cold weather inevitably come colds, flu, URIs. Although medical science would say that there is no cure for the common cold, if you grew up in my household, you would beg to differ.

I was a fairly sickly kid growing up. I had my share of upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, asthma. I’ve choked down Chinese traditional medicine concoctions, copious quantities of orange juice and grapefruit juice, taken multiple Vitamin C and Zinc tablets. Every family has some cocktail of juices, pills, foods, soups, and medicine that they swear by.  For me, I must have my beef noodle soup, and that sentiment is shared by many.

Spicy beef noodle soup has existed since the Tang Dynasty (618 to 906 AD) and was popularized by a Chinese Muslim ethnic group (who also made some bad ass hand-pulled noodles). Many Asians today still consider this dish prophylaxis against cold and flu.  I can’t comment about the the actual research behind any of these claims, but believe it or not, there’s really no harm in treating yourself to a delicious and warm meal.

Hong Shao Niu Rou Mian (紅燒牛肉麵)

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Ingredients:

  • Beef shank                                     2  lb, cut into chunks
  • Oil                                                     2 T
  • Garlic                                               8 cloves, chopped
  • Ginger                                             2 T, minced
  • Star Anise                                      3
  • Sichuan peppercorns                 1 T
  • Chili black bean sauce               2 T
  • Dark soy sauce                             4 T
  • Light soy sauce                            2 T
  • Five spice powder                        1 T
  • Tomato                                            1 large, cut into segments
  • Water                                               6 cups
  • Bok choy                                         6, halved
  • Noodles
  • Salt
  • Green onion                                  chopped

Begin by heating up a wok on high heat and season your chunks of beef with salt. In the meantime, add garlic, ginger, five spice, sichuan peppercorns, chili black bean sauce, dark and light soy sauce to a small bowl and mix well. Once the wok is hot, add oil and beef, making sure the beef is nicely seared. Add contents from the small bowl, tomato, and water. Add star anise. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and let simmer for at least 1.5-2 hours. The longer you simmer, the more tender the beef will be and the better the flavor. In the meantime, cook your noodles and bok choy in separate pots of water. Place noodles, bok choy, and desired beef in a bowl. Pour broth through a sieve over it. Garnish with green onions and enjoy.

Stay warm!

D

 

Eggsalent Breakfast Sandwich

Growing up, I always favored sweet breakfasts over savory. Weekday breakfasts usually meant one brand or another of packaged breakfast cereal, and either pancakes or waffles generously doused in Aunt Jemima syrup typically made an appearance on either Saturday or Sunday. As I grew up, I slowly became more health conscious and progressively made an effort to reign in the unconscious sugar consumption. Old habits die hard though, and I still tend to favor a stack of fluffy pancakes over omelets at brunch. That said, there is a tiny restaurant in Cambridge called City Girl Cafe whose savory brunch options always trumped sweet in my book.

I always thought that City Girl (as we affectionately called it) was exactly the sort of place I would like to open if I ever entered the restaurant business. The place seated about 20 people, max, and even that was only accomplished by packing the tables so closely together that you had to turn sideways to walk between them. Three of the walls were painted a gray-ish navy and covered with eclectic vintage art; the fourth was painted with chalkboard paint and was covered with hand-written lists of drinks and specials. Baskets bearing large plants hung near the windows. Because space was at a premium, there was no room for customers to wait inside, so eager brunch-goers would leave their name on a list and head back outside to bide their time. Amazingly, even on the bitterest of Boston winter mornings, there was always a line.

The menu was a tightly curated list of City Girl twists on brunch classics. Though I probably tried most of the menu during my two years in Cambridge, I always came back to the egg sandwich. The traditional iteration of the egg sandwich – slightly greasy and oozy with American cheese – never really did it for me. Though the City Girl egg sandwich technically contains the same elements – bread, cheese, egg, bacon – it is a different thing entirely. City Girl takes the unfussy egg sandwich and fusses over it, in the best way possible. If you are looking for a quick brunch, look elsewhere, as this sandwich takes a bit of time to be made properly. If, however, you are looking for an egg sandwich worthy of holiday breakfasts, read on.

-S

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Goat Cheese and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

  • French baguette
  • Scrambled eggs (see notes, below)
  • Goat cheese
  • Yellow onion, julienned
  • Thick-cut bacon

Heat a medium-size skillet over high heat. Add bacon, cook until done, and remove from skillet, reserving ~2T of bacon grease. Add the onions to the reserved bacon grease and turn heat down to medium. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, ideally almost jammy (note – this is the step that really requires patience. Though you can serve the sandwich with onions that have not been fully caramelized, as seen above, you will be richly rewarded if you wait. The onions play off the goat cheese best when they have been allowed to reach peak sweetness). While onions are cooking, scramble your eggs according to method listed below. Once either the eggs or onions are finished, whichever comes first, dump them out and wipe out the pan. Cut baguette in half, hollow out each half a bit, and place cut side down on your cleaned pan. Return pan to heat and warm bread until lightly toasted (you could, of course, also just toast the baguettes – either way works). To assemble sandwich, spread one half of the baguette with 1-2T of goat cheese. Top with scrambled eggs, 2 slices of the cooked bacon, and as many caramelized onions as you can pile on. Enjoy!

Egg instructions:

Crack eggs into a cold skillet. Add about 1T of butter for every 2 eggs. Transfer skillet to medium-low heat and begin to stir, slowly breaking up the yolks as you go. As soon as swirls of lightly cooked egg begin to form, remove the skillet from the heat and stir thoroughly for a few seconds. Return the mixture to the heat and continue cooking. Continue like this, removing the eggs from the heat about every 30 seconds to one minute for stirring. Eggs should be stirred continuously, on and off the heat. Stop cooking when the eggs are barely set, ideally still a bit runny, as they will continue cooking from the heat of the pan. Using this method, the eggs will take several minutes to cook, but will also be superlatively creamy.

I Yam a Sweet Potato

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” -R+J

Sarah stole my thunder and already talked about our Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving, but I figure for a holiday filled with food, it warrants at least one more post…plus I have all the pictures.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was the epitome of Asian fusion cuisine. Our stuffing was composed of glutinous rice, Chinese sausage, mushrooms, peanuts, lotus seeds, and dates instead of the typical breadcrumbs. We had no need for gravy as our turkey was basted with a teriyaki sauce that permeated the bird and created a lovely dark brown/black-colored skin. Instead of the typical sides, we’d have an assortment of my mother’s amazing Chinese dishes. The following day, the leftover turkey transformed itself into an amazing rice porridge that I still dream about.

As years went on, I brought the typical garlic mashed potatos and green beans into the mix and started spending some Thanksgivings away from home. The smells that I typically associated with Thanksgiving began to morph and evolve as did my friendships and relationships.

Ultimately, I find myself in a blissfully confusing amalgam of food and people from all aspects of my life. Delineations between friends, family, and home have blurred, and each of the people pictured and mentioned have played some pivotal role in my life and molded who I have become. I feel truly fortunate to be surrounded by these people.

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This year Sarah and I were lucky enough to be able to celebrate with my co-interns and our friends in NOLA and my sister. I’m really not a fan of the traditional candied yams so thought I would try to create something with a nice blend of savory and sweet while still paying homage to some of the classic smells and seasonings of the holiday. Ultimately, I came up with this mashed sweet potato recipe that I brought to both celebrations.

Ginger and Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes

  • Sweet potatoes                  4-5, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Garlic                                    5 cloves, minced
  • Ginger                                  3 Tbsp, minced
  • Butter                                   4 Tbsp
  • Milk                                       1/4 cup or less
  • Cinnamon                           1/2 Tbsp
  • Cloves                                   1 tsp
  • Nutmeg                                1/2 Tbsp
  • Salt                                        To taste

In a large pot, add chunks of sweet potato and cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook until pieces of sweet potato are easily pierced with a fork. As sweet potatoes are boiling, in a small pan, saute garlic and ginger until lightly golden brown and set aside. After sweet potatoes are done, drain all water and place back in pot. Add butter, sauteed garlic and ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, and begin mashing. Add milk a little at a time until reaching desired consistency. Add salt as needed.

-D

Oh yeah, yams vs sweet potatoes.

Yams and sweet potatoes are actually not related at all. They are also not related to potatos. Confused yet? Sweet potatoes hail from Central and South America while yams come from Africa, Asia, and tropical regions. Chances are that whatever you picked up for Thanksgiving is actually a sweet potato. It also doesn’t help that many grocery stores label an orange-colored sweet potato a yam.