Friday, December 31, 2010

Mom's Braised Asian Ribs, and My 100th Post!

Mom's Braised Ribs

One of my pet peeves is calling a dish "Asian," but I didn't know how else to describe these ribs made with mirin, sake, and fish sauce.  After all, nothing gets labeled as European Salad Dressing or European Spice Rub.  I often call my family's dishes Chinese, Malaysian, or Singaporean, but this one is a mix of Japanese and Southeast Asian flavors.  Mom says she got the idea from some cooking show, probably one of the Taiwanese or Hong Kong shows she watches, and copied the general idea.  So while I was visiting in New York the week before Christmas, I showed her how to make carrot cake while she taught me this recipe.  She's cute -- I think she intends on doing a recipe swap every time I visit.  She says my dad adores these ribs, and after Joe tasted hers he was excited I was making them too.

One thing worth mentioning: In my hurry at the supermarket, I didn't realize I bought boneless country-style ribs.  This resulted in the fattier pieces becoming juicy and fall-apart tender, while the leaner pieces were a bit tough and dry-textured.  Buy spare ribs, not too lean, with bones in them.

Oh, and it's my 100th post!  Yay!

Braised Ribs
From top-left: The ribs are seared on each side; ginger and garlic are sauteed briefly; the ribs simmer in mirin, sake, water, fish sauce, and ketchup; they are braised until the meat is fall-apart tender.  Think ketchup is a strange ingredient?  The condiment originated in Asia, and some say ketchup comes from a Malaysian word.  The sauce is delicious, lightly infused with ginger and the other flavors, so pour it over.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stained Glass Cookies

Stained Glass Cookies

These Stained Glass Cookies are works of art.  Hold them up, and you can see through their candy centers. They can look like red glass ornaments on your cookie trees, and the cutouts in turn can be decorated with colored sugar and adorn another cookie tree.  They were a gorgeous addition to my Christmas cookie baskets.

Stained Glass Ornament Cookies

These ornament cookies look almost too pretty to eat, like they should be hung up on a real tree to catch the light.

Stained Glass Cookie Trees

And for some variation, a light brushing of water followed by a sprinkling of colorful sugar also makes your cookies festive.

Stained Glass Cookies
The method couldn't be easier.  After the cookies bake for a few minutes, pull them out and sprinkle crushed hard candy into the cavities, then bake a little longer.  But Joe and I were doubtful, and you should have heard us preparing.

I don't think the oven is hot enough to melt the candy.

Of course it is! ... but if I pile it too high, will it overflow?

Is the the candy going stay in place or flow like a river?

I can tell you that the candy will spread, but only so much.  So you may want to sprinkle a little extra in the points of those stars and snowflakes.  And our little mounds of crushed candy sat taller than the cookies, but did not overflow.  Try it ... I bet people will tell you they've never seen anything like it!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cookie Mania, and Brown Butter Crispy Rice Treats!

Holiday Cookie Basket

Nothing spells holiday love like these wrapped baskets of cookies.  This year Plum Cherry Crumb Bars, Brown Butter Crispy Rice Treats, and Stained Glass Cookies and Sugared Cookies were added to the Linzer Cookies my sister demands I make every year.  Unlike past years when I stressed and swore over torn and cracked dough or runny royal icing, these were fairly easy-going and fun.  And luckily I finished them and shipped them off before I got hit with this nasty cold.

Holiday Cookie Baskets

To make the Plum Cherry Crumb Bars, follow the Raspberry Crumb Bar recipe I made in October and substitute with Sarabeth's Plum Cherry Jam.  Yes, it's pricey, but like we said, "Mmm... No time like the holidays to splurge on $10 jam."  To make the Linzers, follow the Linzer recipe I used last year.  I'll share the recipe and technique next time for the Stained Glass Cookies.  For now, let's talk about Brown Butter Crispy Rice Treats.

Browned Butter Crispy Rice Treats

These are like your childhood favorites, but browned butter, real vanilla bean, and salt give them subtle grown-up touches.  I thought this was a gluten-free treat, but discovered that Rice Krispies have malt in them!  And a wheat-free cereal I found also had malt, so that means it's wheat-free but not gluten-free.  I intended them as a treat for Joe's sis, but I'll have to continue my hunt for gluten-free cereal.  Also, although I'm a chocolate lover, I don't advocate for the use of chocolate here because it overwhelmed the other flavors.

Rice Krispy Treats

These are made much like the way you made them as a kid with mom.  The butter is just cooked on low heat a little longer to brown it, and a scraped vanilla bean is added.  Can you see the vanilla specks in the melted marshmallow?  The cereal is added, then the mixture is poured into a pan and smoothed out.  They're more moist than the back-of-the-cereal-box recipe, so I let them sit out overnight.