Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chicken Udon

This is one of the meals I remember eating as a kid.  My dad was in the Navy. We spent quite a bit of time in Japan.  I saw the Udon noodles in the supermarket awhile back and decided to find a good recipe so I could share Udon with my kids.  As a kid, we just called this dish Udon.  On a menu you will likely find Udon called Pork Udon or Chicken Udon depending on how it is prepared.  I've even seen it called Chicken and Udon noodle soup. In Japan it is understood that Udon is a noodle soup so adding "noodle soup" seems a bit redundant, in my opinion.  Whatever you call it, it's a delicious meal.

1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 chicken breast
4cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
2 Tbsp dried shiitake mushrooms
600g udon noodles
2 bunches of baby pak choy, rinsed and trimmed
1/3c mirin
1/4c soy sauce
green onion, rinsed and sliced

In a soup pot, add the chicken breast, shallot, ginger, and mushrooms to 7 cups of water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer (covered) for 10 minutes.  Skim any scum that appears on the surface.  Remove from heat and stand (covered) for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.  Transfer the chicken and mushrooms to a plate.  Strain the chicken stock, discarding the ginger and shallot.  Return the stock to the pot.

Shred the chicken.  Slice the mushrooms into thick slices if necessary.  (The mushrooms I used were already sliced.) 

Reheat the stock over a high heat.  Add the noodles.  Cook for 2 minutes (or until the noodles are tender).  Return the chicken and mushrooms to the pan.  Add the pak choy.  Cook for another 2 minutes. The leaves will have just wilted and the chicken will be heated through.  Stir in the mirin and soy sauce.  Garnish with green onion.

Alternatives: Fresh cilantro leaves are also a tasty garnish for Udon, but my family doesn't really care for cilantro so I pick my battles.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fruit Plate

I started with a dinner plate and small bowl for the center.  I sliced up some cantaloupe, pineapple, and kiwi.  I layered the fruit around the bowl.  Then I added some strawberries for color and filled the bowl with blueberries.  Watermelon slices would be lovely, too.  This is a nice addition to the picnic table (or any pot luck).

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

3/4c plus 2 Tbsp all purpose four; divided
3/4c cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp unsalted butter; at room temperature
3/4c plus 2 Tbsp sugar (will use all in same step)
Zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 plus 2 Tbsp milk; at room temperature
1c fresh blueberries

About an hour before you begin baking, Measure out your milk, butter, and eggs.  Put them on the kitchen counter and allow it to come to room temperature.*

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Line cupcake tin with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour (just 3/4c), cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk and set aside.  In a mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and lemon zest.  Beat until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).  Beat in eggs one at a time, blending well after each egg.  Beat in vanilla and lemon juice.  On a low speed add 1/2 of dry mixture.  Blend.  Add milk.  Blend.  Add the second half of dry mixture.

In a small bowl, toss blueberries with 2 Tbsp of flour.  Using a spatula, gently fold berries into batter.  Divide batter evenly between the cupcake liners filling each about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for 20-22 minutes or until toothpick pulls clean.  Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack.

*Chemistry in the Kitchen:  At room temperature eggs, butter, and milk bond and form an emulsion that traps air. During baking, the air expands, producing light, airy, evenly baked treats.

Buttercream Icing for the Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

1c solid white vegetable shortening
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp lemon extract
5-6 tsp milk (add one or two more tsp of milk if needed)
1 lb pure can confectioner's sugar

Cream shortening, flavoring, and milk.  Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until all ingredients are mixed.  Blend an additional minute or so until creamy.  Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups.