Continuing Ed

This weekend I took my very first cooking class at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education). The morning of class I packed up my snack, notepad and pen, kissed the kids goodbye and off to school I went. I don’t know which I was more excited for, the class or the childfree time I would be spending on the train into the city. Thirty-five whole minutes to read a magazine with no one asking me “Are we there yet?”

Of course, like any other kid just starting school, I wanted to have a friend in class so I recruited my buddy Candice to sign up with me. If there is one thing we both love, it’s dim sum, so when I saw this course become available I immediately put us down for the last two slots.

Class started with a meeting led by our chef/instructor to go over ingredients and basic kitchen rules. After that we broke off into teams to tackle the ambitious menu that we would be preparing that day. Candice and I volunteered to start some pork bun dough while the rest of our group began dicing.

Candice and I basting the spareribs - and taking our job seriously

Candice and I basting the spareribs – and taking our job seriously

Things started leisurely but as the hours passed and our hunger increased the pace in the kitchen got a bit more frenetic. Everyone jumped in where they could to get it all done because we were all starving! Since Candice and I were stuck in our own little world of pot stickers and pork buns I am not too sure what went on in the rest of the kitchen. Somehow our nine-course meal got completed and it was time to eat the fruits of our labor.

The pot stickers were overdone, the pork bun dough ended up slightly raw, the spareribs that we so lovingly basted ended up burning, the hoisin meatballs were dry, and the custard tart was all crust and hardly any custard. I guess there were literally too many cooks in the kitchen. Despite the questionable culinary results, we all dug into our feast as if we were eating a five-star dinner at Jean Georges.

All in all, it was a great day and I can’t wait to get my ICE apron on again soon! In the meantime, I am going to try and recreate the pot stickers for my own little sous chefs and see how it goes.

Vegetable Pot Stickers

Ingredients

Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp julienned ginger

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp Chinese chili paste (optional)

 

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Filling

1 Tbsp sesame oil

2 cups chopped cabbage

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped carrot

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1/2 tsp white pepper (or black pepper is fine)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 package wonton wrappers (round or square will work)

2 Tbsp water

 

Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add cabbage, onions, and carrots. Cook, stirring frequently, until cabbage is wilted. Mix in egg and cook until no longer runny. Add fish sauce and pepper and cook an additional minute. Remove from heat.

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To assemble the pot stickers, first moisten the edges with warm water. Place approximately 1 tablespoon of the vegetable mixture on the top portion of the wonton wrapper.

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Fold the wrapper in half over the filling and seal edges. Work from the middle out to the edge, pushing down to seal. This way the air will be removed and the pot stickers will hold together.

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Crimp up the edges of the wonton, you don’t have to be fancy here! This will help the filling stay in the dumpling.

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Preheat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook pot stickers approximately 1 minute per side, until lightly browned. Place water into the skillet and reduce heat. Cover and allow the pot stickers to steam until water is gone.

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Serve immediately with dipping sauce. Fingers are encouraged but chopsticks work well too!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “These are not like at the Chinese restaurant”

Dylan (age 4): “Sauce is not good for you, right?”

Liam (age 4): “Don’t like the inning”

Tougher than the critics at the NYTimes… In my opinion, these came out amazing and a lot better than our local Chinese restaurant!

The End

Every summer we take a trip to Montauk with our cousins. It has become a family tradition that we look forward to all year. We pack the minivan to capacity and head out on NY-27 to the End, as Montauk is often referred to. Once we finally arrive at our dive motel, the kids’ scream “Montauk!” and the fun begins.

Most people would define vacation as a time devoted to rest and relaxation. But our kids never seem to get that memo. Strangely, their energy level seems to increase exponentially as the days goes by.

One minute they want to be at the beach, the next it is the pool, followed by a trip for ice cream, fishing, or miniature golf. Then back to the beach, which makes them hungry again so back to the room for a snack. Each of these trips requires no less than a shower, a bathroom break, and a change of clothes. If you have ever read the popular children’s book, ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…’, then you get the idea.

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Our vacation wraps up with our big family potluck dinner. Personally this is one of my favorite nights. Some menu items this year were Robyn’s famous meatballs, Chris’s sausage & peppers, and our turkey chili. In years past our Aunt Harriet would make a huge pot of clam chowder to start off the meal. I am making my own version this week, heavy on the veggies, with a little bacon thrown in for good measure.

Corn Clam Chowder

Ingredients:

5 slices bacon, diced

1 Tbsp butter

1 cup onion, finely diced

1 cup celery, finely diced

1 cup carrots, finely diced

Juice from 10oz. can minced clams, clams reserved

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup potato, cubed

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cups whole or 2% milk

1 cup fresh or frozen corn

 

Directions:

Cook bacon in a large saucepan until crisp.

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Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels and set aside. Add butter, onions, celery, and carrots to the bacon drippings. Sauté vegetables until softened, about 20-25 minutes.

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Add clam juice, chicken broth, potatoes, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

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In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour and milk. Add reserved clams and milk mixture to the soup and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring often, until thickened and bubbling, about 8-10 minutes. Add corn in the last two minutes of cooking.

Garnish with bacon bits and serve with crusty bread for dipping.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (big brother): “My tastebuds don’t think it’s yummy”

Liam (little brother): “EEEWWW – what is THAT?”

Dylan (little brother): “It’s so disgusting! Mommy, why did you cook this for dinner?”

Funny, I don’t remember my Aunt Harriet getting that reaction!

Latkes – Baked vs. Fried

It’s that time of year – latke time! There is nothing like a fried potato pancake to get into the spirit of the season.

I decided to try baking and frying for a healthy experiment. I was curious to see which the boys would prefer. Would they even notice?

After some research I found there is much debate in the latke world about this subject. The diehard latke fans seem to feel they should never be baked. I wanted to see if there was a huge difference in taste, as it would mean a substantial cut in fat and calories in the baked version. Although for the boys this is not an issue right now – for me it is! And if I bake them and the taste is right, then I get to eat more than one. Bonus!

I took a basic latke recipe and added some grated vegetables. This recipe is fairly easy, although grating the vegetables is slightly challenging with three little boys in superhero capes running under my feet screaming “in the name of the Emperor!”

Zucchini & Carrot Latkes

Ingredients:

1 large Russet potato

1 small yellow onion

1 carrot

1 small zucchini (should be about 1/2 cup shredded)

1 large egg

1-tsp baking powder

1-tsp salt

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil for frying

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Peel the potato and carrot, and remove the outer skin from the onion. Grate onion, potato, carrot and zucchini onto a kitchen towel or cheesecloth and wring out as much moisture as possible. This step is crucial in the baking version or you will be chiseling the pancakes off your baking sheet.

Transfer potato mixture to a large bowl and stir in the egg. In a separate small bowl, mix together the baking powder, salt and flour, and then stir that into the potato/egg mixture.

Baked:

Drop 2-3 tablespoons of potato mixture onto baking sheet (not too thick). Bake for 15-20 minutes, then turn pancakes and bake an additional 10 minutes or so until crispy.

Fried:

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In a large skillet heat 1/4 inch of oil over medium high heat until hot. Drop 2-3 tablespoons of potato mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes a side until golden and crispy. Drain excess oil on paper towels and serve.

Can you guess which is which? The fried are on the left…

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (big bro)

Fried: Super Yummy!

Baked: I like it a little but I don’t like it a little

Liam (little bro)

Fried: I like this latla

Baked: Did Matthew like this latla?

Dylan (little bro)

Fried: I love that big thing! Can we eat this before Hanukkah?

Baked: Yuck

Bottom Line: Latkes should always be fried never baked! What was I thinking anyway??? Live a little, eat fried latkes!