This Pancake Won’t Fall Flat

ebelskiver3

I remember vividly the first time I saw a filled-pancake pan.

It was featured prominently in a Williams-Sonoma catalogue, with a recipe for lemon curd and marscapone filled pancakes. As soon as I saw it, something clicked. Pancakes. Filled with deliciouness. It was a no-brainer, but the possibilities were breathtaking. After doing some research I found out that the concept of a spherical pancake was Danish, and that these pancakes were known as ebelskiver.

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Steakhouse Swedish Meatballs

swedish meatballs

The last thing I expected to be making for this blog was meatballs. I hate meatballs.

Generally speaking.  Their texture is too often like gummy meat paste, or worse, reminiscent of sandpaper. There are so many bad meatballs out there.

When we chose Scandinavian food as our first international recipe project, I was a little apprehensive. More than a little. Nightmaric visions of open-faced sandwiches piled high with mayonnaise and boiled eggs and pickled herring swam before my eyes.

Considering my prejudices, Swedish meatballs seemed the most unlikely challenge to fall into my lap. So of course it did.

I didn’t stick to the book on this recipe. I decided to take some of my favorite steakhouse ingredients– thyme, red wine, onions, Worcestershire sauce, and mushrooms–and use them as inspiration for my meatballs.

And they were… delicious. Really. I used ground sirloin, red wine-caramelized onions, and panko breadcrumbs in the meatballs. They were on the loose side, but I like them that way. No gummy texture! I piled them high on creamy mashed potatoes and topped them off with an earthy portabello mushroom gravy. Who knew meatballs could be so reminiscent of a steak dinner? I didn’t. It was the perfect stick-to-your-ribs meal for a dreary Chicago winter day.

– Angela M.

Steakhouse Swedish Meatballs

mushroom gravy

Ingredients:

For Meatballs:
– 2 lbs. ground sirloin
– 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
– 1/3 cup beef broth
– 2 eggs
– 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
– 1 chopped onion
– 1/4 cup red wine
– 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
– 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
– 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
– Salt and pepper

For Gravy:
– 5 portabello mushrooms, sliced into 1/4 inch wide pieces
– 2 1/2 cups beef broth
– 1/2 cup heavy cream
– 1/4 cup red wine
– Small bunch fresh thyme
– 1 tbsp butter
– 1 tbsp flour
– Salt and pepper

steakhouse swedish meatballs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In a saute pan over medium heat, caramelize the chopped onions with 1/4 cup red wine, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine ground sirloin, panko breadcrumbs, eggs, beef broth, thyme, allspice and nutmeg in a large bowl. When onions are translucent and reddish-brown, fold into ground sirloin mixture. Form meatballs into 1 inch balls. Be careful not to over-work the meat, or the meatballs will become tough. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the meatballs and saute until brown on all sides. Transfer meatballs to an oven-safe pan and place in oven to keep warm while making the gravy.

Add the portabello mushrooms and several sprigs of thyme into the meatball pan drippings and sautee over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add beef broth and heavy cream and heat through, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small pan over low heat, combine 1 tbsp room temperature butter with 1 tbsp flour to form a rue. With a fork, stir the rue into the gravy to thicken it, then add the red wine. Let the gravy simmer for 5-10 minutes over medium heat to thicken before serving.

Serve meatballs and gravy over mashed potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley and enjoy!

Japanese Ceviche

My favorite restaurant is Kabuki Sushi near my home in Northridge, CA.

It’s a San Fernando Valley classic: a family-run strip-mall sushi bar with a dedicated base of regulars. One of their most popular menu items is Japanese ceviche: tomatoes, red onions, cilantro and tuna, yellowtail, halibut, and salmon sashimi doused generously ponzu dressing. Here is my take on their specialty. I use yellowfin tuna here, but you can use any high-grade or sushi-grade fish. You should not let the fish sit in the marinade too long, or it will begin to discolor and toughen. It is best served super-fresh. I like it with a bowl of steamed white rice and a sprinkle of toasted black sesame seeds

– Angela M.

Japanese Ceviche:

Serves: 4

Ingredients:
– ½ lb. high-grade cubed Yellowfin or Bluefin tuna
– 1 large handful coarsly chopped cilantro
– 1/4 red onion, sliced
– 1 seedless cucumber, julienned
– 4 firm Roma tomatoes, seeded and sliced
– Toasted black sesame seeds (optional)
– 6 tbsp ponzo sauce
– 1.5 tbsp clover honey
– 1.5 tbsp sesame oil
– Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:
Whisk ponzu sauce, honey, sesame oil and lemon juice together until well combined. Pour over chopped tomatoes, onion, and cilantro in a large bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes. Mix in cubed tuna. Garnish with red pepper flakes and toasted black sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Hot Pondering

It’s time for the favorite food discussion. You know the one. If I had to eat only one thing for the rest of my life, it would be…

That one. My answer varies occasionally based on mood or time of day or the prevailing climatic conditions. But there are regulars that show up time and again. They are those foods of which I can say, “I really wouldn’t mind eating that and only that for the rest of my life.” There are maybe only two or three dishes I can think of in the world that might qualify. And one, only one, that really fits the bill.

And that food is hot pot. Huo guo. Shabu shabu. It’s known by many names, but here are the essentials: Vegetables, meat, seafood and noodles submerged in a pot of boiling hot liquid, and family and friends gathered around it, fondue-style. It’s a fend-for-yourself, don’t-be-squeamish, germ-sharing, and as my friend Alan observed, “democratic” way of eating.

It’s not my favorite because it is gourmet or particularly graceful. It may never get a Food & Wine cover. It’s my favorite because when I eat it, it reminds me of the way food should be eaten, and that is with great joy and with the people we love.

I have a Chinese mother and an American father. Sometimes this can be weird and treacherous and uncomfortable. Navigating a safe course between the two cultures has been one of the great efforts of my life. But in my experience, if anything can bring a family together around the table, it is this meal.

Let me be clear. Hot pot is wonderful and delicious. But for me it has always been about the people I enjoy it with.

I was very grateful to share a hot pot dinner with my friends while I was away in college this Chinese New Year. This is the third year in a row that I have spent this major holiday away from home. Finally I have been able to make a piece of home for myself, here. I hope you will try this very special meal and find that it makes you as happy as it makes me.

Xin nian quai le! A very happy New Year to you all.

– Angela M.

Chinese New Year Hot Pot

You can throw just about anything in hot pot. Here’s a list of common ingredients:

– Thinly sliced pork, mutton, beef, or chicken
– Fresh raw shrimp or prawns
– Mussels
– Clams
– White-fleshed fish
– Nappa cabbage
– Any variety of mushroom
– Tomatoes
– Spinach
– Tong hao
– Medium or Firm tofu
– Fried tofu
– Imitation krab
– Fish balls
– Handmade noodles

You can find these items at any Asian market. You’ll also need an electric pot. Fondue pots work just fine.