Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hot Pepper Noodles

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I love noodles in pretty much any shape or form. Whether they are Italian, Asian, or anything in between, they are at the forefront of my love and affection. Pad Thai is one of my favorites, and I was recently exploring other stir-fried rice noodle dishes that I can make to change things up a little in my kitchen.


This particular recipe derives from Penny's Noodle Shop in Chicago. This Thai eatery serves all the classics as well as these spicy hot pepper noodles. They make theirs with super wide rice noodles (think pad see ew), but I used the medium width I had on hand. Since my Pad Thai recipes uses 6 ounces of rice noodles, and this recipe uses 10 ounces, you can make both of these dishes using a 1 pound package of noodles (perfect math!).


That's exactly what I did, using what was leftover after making Pad Thai weeks earlier to make this bright-flavored Thai noodle dish. I particularly love the accent of fresh basil and juicy tomatoes that really counteract the spice from the sauce.


If you're looking for quick and satisfying Thai noodles, don't order take out. Look no further than this easy and colorful stir-fry, packed with protein from chicken breast and scrambled egg. You could also substitute an equivalent amount of thinly sliced beef for the chicken, or tofu if you'd like to keep if vegetarian (although beware that oyster sauce is not vegetarian if you go that route).


Hot Pepper Noodles
Serves 2 to 4
(Adapted from Penny's Noodle Shop in Chicago via Bon Appetit)

2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Asian chili-garlic sauce
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
10 ounces dried wide rice noodles (I used medium, because that's what I had)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 8-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, preferably Thai, roughly chopped

Stir oyster sauce, chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl to combine; set sauce aside.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, run under cold water to cool, snip a few times with kitchen shears, and set aside.

Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat; add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook, tossing often, until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add pepper, onion, tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons reserved sauce to pan and toss to combine. Cook for a few more minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Push the chicken and vegetables to the side of the wok and add the egg to the open space. When it begins to cook, gently scramble the egg until it's no longer runny, then stir it to combine with the chicken mixture.

Add noodles and remaining 2 tablespoons sauce and toss to combine. Add basil leaves and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles and vegetables are completely coated with sauce and heated through, about 2 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Walt Disney World: Teppan Edo & Les Halles

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The most challenging thing about visiting Epcot is figuring out where to eat. Epcot is easily the park with the most exciting dining options. The World Showcase in particular boasts some of the most popular dining at all of Walt Disney World, namely because of the fun of traveling around the world (and also drinking around the world).


In addition to its incredible array of restaurants, it also hosts the Food & Wine Festival each fall as well as the Flower & Garden Festival each spring. Both events include booths featuring more food and drinks from around the world, making Epcot truly an international gastronomic experience.


Some of my personal favorite dining spots can be found in the World Showcase at Epcot, and we've been known to visit the same spots over and over again simply because they're so good. But every once in a while it really is worth branching out and trying someplace new.


Enter Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion. Although I've been to other teppanyaki (similar to hibachi, but the heating element is different) restaurants in the past, this was my first visit to Teppan Edo. We were dining here with children and thought it would be the most entertaining meal in the World Showcase, and that's absolutely true! It's seriously dinner and a show in the most fun way possible.


When you arrive at Teppan Edo, you'll notice it's adjacent to the other Japan Pavilion dining spot, Tokyo Dining. Head to the left of the elevators and you'll be able to check in for your meal at Teppan Edo. Just like with any Table Service dining option, I highly encourage Advance Dining Reservations.


After checking in, your hostess will lead you down a hallway with tons of doors leading to large rooms, each containing four cook-top/dining stations. The flat top grill sits in the center of each station, if you will, and it's surrounded with seats around the perimeter. This allows you the best view of your chef, and also makes it convenient for the chef to easily serve everyone.


Depending on the size of your party, your may have to share the table with others. We were a larger party, but still shared our space with another couple. Our server started off by taking our drink and appetizer orders as well as our entree orders. She put on a little show of her own by wrapping a rubber band around chopsticks to make it easier to grip for the children in our party. She did so at the speed of lightning. It was really impressive.


Moving on. Let's start with some drinks! So many of the specialty cocktails sounded amazing, but I decided to try the Tokyo Sunset, featuring coconut rum, creme de banana, peach schnapps, and pineapple juice. It was tropical and refreshing, a wonderful start to our meal. I'd happily order it again.

Tokyo Sunset $9.50

One of my dining companions elected to try the Okinawa Beach, featuring Cuervo gold tequila, blue curacao, pineapple juice, sour mix, and calpico, a Japanese soft drink. She loved her cocktail as well, as did I when taking a quick taste. Honestly, so many of these drinks sound fantastic, I'd happy try any one of them!

Okinawa Beach $9.50

My sister was the only one in our dining party to order an appetizer. She went with the sushi sampler plate, which contains tuna, salmon, and shrimp nigiri, along with two pieces of California roll. If you're starving (and we were) this will help hold you over until the rest of the food is prepared.

Sushi Sampler $9.95

The menu is pretty typical of any teppanyaki or hibachi restaurant. It contains some appetizer and sushi options, but the main event is a cooked-to-order meal with your choice of protein or vegetables, all served with specific accompaniments. In this case with your meal you receive seasonal vegetables with noodles and sukiyaki beef rice.


While most of my party ordered the beef and chicken combo, I was in a seafood mood and decided to get the scallops as my protein. Our chef Kenta arrived and started us off with our dipping sauces: a mustard sauce which is recommended with chicken or steak, a ginger-soy sauce which is recommended with vegetables, and the yum-yum sauce (like a Japanese ranch) which is recommended with seafood. I mostly used the yum-yum sauce since I had scallops, but I did try both of the other sauces and enjoyed them all.


Now, Kenta gets started with oiling down the grill--in the shape of Mickey!



He then starts out with the vegetables, stacking up onion rings to make a smoking onion volcano. He proceeds to fry up our noodles with the vegetables and serves that up as our first meal component.





Next up he cooks the proteins, beginning with any allergen friendly ones so as to not cross contaminate, and then proceeds with the rest of the proteins. Even though I sampled my noodles, snow peas, and rice, I tried to eat slowly so my scallops could catch up and complete the meal.

Sukiyaki beef rice

My meal minus the scallops

Shortly afterwards, six plump, beautiful, perfectly griddled sea scallops joined my plate. Everything is really delicious and well-seasoned, and the dipping sauces are all really excellent to fine-tune the meal to your taste.




At the completion of our meal, our server brought out chef's hats and dessert for a couple young members of our dining party who were both celebrating birthdays. What a fun end to a really entertaining and delicious meal.


We decided to skip dessert at Teppan Edo and head to the France Pavilion to pick up some sweets and cafe lattes at Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie. I've written more extensively about Les Halles previously (along with tons of pictures of the display cases and more), so I'm not going to go through the full spiel again. Rather, I'm just going to highlight a couple of delicious pastries we tried on this visit!


First, we tried the Tarte au Citron, or lemon tart. If you're a fan of lemon, this tart is an excellent choice. It's tart and sweet with a flaky crust and some delicious bruleed meringue on top. Think of it as the mini French version of a lemon meringue pie. Yum!

Tarte au Citron $4.25

My absolute favorite item (and honestly, my favorite for the four items I've tried so far on subsequent visits to Les Halles) is the Palmier. This is described as a cinnamon and chocolate elephant ear. It's in fact a cinnamon-sugar laced puff pastry dough, shaped like an elephant ear, baked until flaky and glistening with sugar, and then dipped in chocolate. It's exceptional. Really and truly exceptional. I think what I love most about it is its simplicity. It appears so unassuming, but it was my favorite pastry here thus far! Cinnamon is a flavor that actually enhances chocolate, and in this case even with just a little bit of chocolate, you can really appreciate the flavor pairing. Magnificent!

Palmier $3.85

I love eating my way around the World Showcase at Epcot. I'd really like to dine in every single country (and perhaps someday I shall). In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this look into the wonderfully entertaining and delicious Teppan Edo, and the scrumptious guilt-inducing Les Halles. Both get lots of love from me and enthusiastic recommendations to all of you.

Teppan Edo
1510 N Ave Of The Stars
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 939-3463

Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie
1510 Avenue of the Stars
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 939-3463
https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/epcot/les-halles-boulangerie-patisserie/

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Chocolate Chip Sweets: Date and Chocolate Rugelach

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Chocolate chips are the basis for some of the most popular cookies ever. Furthermore, they elevate cakes, cupcakes, muffins, and scones to a higher plane. These tiny chocolate morsels are the subject of a new cookbook written by Tracey Zabar entitled Chocolate Chip Sweets. The cookbook is more of a compilation, including recipes featuring chocolate chips from prominent chefs and pastry chefs as well as many of Tracey's own recipes.


Chapters include Lunch Box Treats and Everyday Cookies; Party Cookies; Plain Cakes; Fancy Cakes; Pies, Tarts, and Pastries; Spoon Desserts and Hot Drinks; and Breakfast Treats and Breads.


The first chapter contains 16 recipes for relatively basic cookies containing chocolate chips, many of which are simply variations on the standard chocolate chip cookie, but hailing from a variety of pastry chefs all with their unique twists on the classic. I'd happily try them all!


From there we proceed to a true smorgasbord of chocolate chip recipes. There are tons of enticing options to try, such as Chocolate Chip "Elvis" Sandwich, Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Soufflé, Chocolate Chip Cannoli Sandwiches, and more.


I first narrowed down on the Date and Chocolate Rugelach, recipe courtesy of Miro Uskokovic, the pastry chef at one of my favorite restaurants, Gramercy Tavern. Rugelach is actually a Jewish pastry/cookie that is filled and rolled and it often contains fruit and chocolate as filling options. The dough is tangy and contains an ample amount of cream cheese. I've eaten my fair share of rugelach but had never attempted to make it. This was the perfect opportunity!


The rugelach recipe in this book is a tad different than some other traditional ones, in particular due to its shape. Typically, rugelach take on a crescent-roll type of shape, where the dough is rolled out into a circle, the toppings are spread over it, it's cut into wedges and each piece is rolled into a small pastry. This particular version in Chocolate Chip Sweets yields large rectangular pastries instead. This also means they will take longer to bake, but we'll get to that in a minute.


This recipe is rather simple to make but requires quite a bit of time to complete. The dough comes together very quickly in a stand mixer and then rests in the refrigerator for an hour. Meanwhile, you make the date jam filling, which also must cool before it is used. I recommend getting your Medjool dates from Trader Joe's. An entire pound is less than $5. Not a bad price at all for such excellent dates!



Then you roll out the dough and assemble several jelly-roll style rolls of pastry which then chill for another hour in the refrigerator.


This is followed by cutting the rolls into smaller pieces, rolling in butter and sugar, and then freezing for about 30 minutes. Finally, we bake the rugelach, and although the original recipe states 15 to 20 minutes, in actuality it was more like 1 hour! That's really the only glaring issue I have with the entire recipe--the bake time (also there are a few details that could be been more elaborate, but nothing quite as incorrect as the bake time). No way can you take these rather large rugelach out of the freezer and expect them to become golden brown in such a short time.


After all is said and done, and they are baked for an appropriately long amount of time to get them nice and golden, we finally have the finished product. Was it worth the trouble? Yes. Yes, indeed.


The result is an incredibly flaky, mildly tangy dough that actually shatters a bit when you bite into it (like a well-made croissant), lacquered in sugar and wrapped around a creamy, smooth filling of dates, flecked with dark chocolate chips, putting it right over the edge. There's absolutely nothing flavor-wise about these rugalach that I'd change.


I held back just a bit on the date filling because it was a bit too much for the dough (I suppose if you rolled yours out just a bit thinner than I did you'd have more surface area for spreading your date jam). Each rugalach is fairly large, but is all the more satisfying because you get a decent sized pastry to yourself without having to go back for seconds and thirds (although you easily could go back for seconds and thirds--it's just that good).


Other than baking them for significantly longer, and scaling back a bit on the date jam, the only other thing I changed was swapping the amounts of cream cheese and butter. Instead of 9 ounces of cream cheese I used 8 ounces because it's easier to purchase an 8-ounce block. I used 9 ounces of unsalted butter instead of 8 ounces because I could easily cut an extra 2 tablespoons from another stick of butter to make up the difference. I've included those changes in the recipe below.


Although the rugelach was my stand-out favorite recipe I tried from Chocolate Chip Sweets, I also tried the Chocolate Chip Buttermilk Cake. It reminds me almost of pound cake in its rich texture and flavor. Un-molding it from my bundt pan was a bit tricky because even though I buttered and floured the pan, the soft chocolate chips weakened the integrity of the cake and allowed some parts to break off when I flipped the pan over. I was able to press the broken pieces back onto the cake (using the melted chocolate as glue) and then covered it all up with powder sugar! It was very tasty, but the rugelach still wins my heart.


All in all, this is a pretty fun cookbook. If you're a fan of chocolate chips, you'll find a plethora of recipes here to satisfy your cravings.


Date and Chocolate Rugelach
Makes about 16 rugelach
(Adapted from Chocolate Chip Sweets--recipe by Miro Uskokovic of Gramercy Tavern)

2 generous pinches kosher salt, divided
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
9 ounces (2 sticks + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and kept very cold, plus additional (about 2 tablespoons) melted and cooled, for finishing
8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, cut into chunks and kept very cold (I used Neufchatel cheese and yielded excellent results)
12 1/2 ounces Medjool dates, pitted (Trader Joe's has the best deal on these! You'll need to pit them yourselves)
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup Grand Marnier (I used Triple Sec, although any orange liqueur will work here)
8 ounces (1 1/3 cups) dark chocolate chips, lightly crushed
Granulated sugar, for finishing

Whisk together a generous pinch of salt with the flour in a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the 9 ounces of butter and the cream cheese, just until combined, and with large chunks still remaining. Add the flour mixture, and mix just enough to combine. Place the dough on a floured board, and with your hands, bring the dough together. Wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

While the dough is chilling, make the jam. Combine the dates, orange juice, and the remaining pinch of salt in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Turn the temperature down to low heat, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and cool for about 10 minutes, then process in a food processor, fitted with the metal blade, with the Grand Marnier until it is smooth and has a paste-like consistency. Cool completely.

When the dough is chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle that is about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 5-inch wide strips (make sure the dimensions of your rectangle are divisible into 5-inch strips--mine was 10-inches across so I divided it in half to yield two 5-inch wide strips, and then I cut each strip in half the opposite way to make it easier to assemble and roll).

Spread the date jam on top of each strip, and sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Roll each strip the long way (like a jelly roll) into a log, and place it on a half-sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until firm.

Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Cut the logs into 2-to-2 1/2-inch slices, and roll each slice in the melted butter, and then the sugar (I actually yielded sixteen 2 1/2 inch pieces, trimming and discarding the uneven edges of each roll). Place the slices on the prepared pans, leaving at least 2 inches in between each one. Place the pans in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the rugelach from the freezer. Bake for 50 to 65 minutes, or until golden brown. remove the rugelach from the oven, transfer to wire racks, and cool completely.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

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