Sunday, October 25, 2009

Scallion Pancakes

In my quest to remain in the favor of Food Network magazine, I decided to test drive another recipe from their beautiful pages. When I ran across a page with a recipe for scallion pancakes, I knew this was the one for me.

Eating scallion pancakes take me back to the days of high school, where we would frequently order Chinese food for dinner. I would undoubtedly request Chicken and Broccoli with an appetizer of Scallion Pancakes. Yum! And to think I didn't even know what these things were until I came to the United States. Horrors!

To break it down: A scallion is a mild green onion. Scallion pancakes are fried dough with scallions. And by the way, there's this amazing dipping sauce to go along with it!

Scallion Pancakes (slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine)
yields 6 pancakes
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt, but Kosher salt was recommended)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 5 scallions, finely chopped
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
1) Combine the flour and salt into a large bowl.

2) Stir in 1/2 cup hot water until blended. My dough was dry, so I added an additional tablespoons of water, although only 2 additional tablespoons are recommended.

3) Knead on a lightly floured surface until elastic yet firm, about 5 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for 30 minutes.
4) Divide the dough into 6 pieces and keep covered. One at a time, roll each piece into a 4-inch-long log, then stretch into a 14-inch-long rope. Brush with shortening and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon scallion. Coil the dough into a circle, cover and set aside. Repeat with the remaining dough.
5) Flatten the coils with your hand on a floured surface, then roll with a floured rolling pin into a thin circle. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
6) Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 pancake and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining pancakes, adding more oil as needed. Cut into wedges to serve.
But wait, did I mention the delicious dipping sauce? I didn't use the dipping sauce recipe which was provided with the scallion pancakes recipe for one reason: the recipe calls for sesame oil and there is no sesame oil in my apartment. So I scoured the Internet and found another recipe which matched the existing ingredients in my kitchen.

Ginger Dipping Sauce (slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
1) Combine all ingredients and whisk to incorporate.

I really love this dipping sauce. It's salty and sweet, which is probably the greatest combination ever created. I can also drizzle the remaining sauce over white rice one day for a quick snack. I'm sure I can find other uses for it , but I haven't thought of them yet. Don't worry, I will.

I liked the final outcome of my scallion pancake endeavor, but I didn't love them. Here's why:

1. They were too dense. This might have been a result of me adding more water than recommended to the dough, but I think it was also due to the frying technique. You should probably add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan before frying each scallion pancake. I definitely could have used more oil in the frying process.

2. The recipe was time consuming. Don't get me wrong, I'll be the first person to appreciate anything made from scratch, but in all honesty, I spent several hours creating these appetizers. Unfortunately for Food Network magazine, I can purchase these for $5 in Hoboken and have them delivered within an hour. But am I still glad I made the effort? Heck, yes!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sweet Potato & Crab Risotto

Right about now, you're probably thinking that I've fallen off my rocker.

Yep. I can't blame you. That's exactly what I thought about the person who posted this recipe on the Tastespotting website. The original recipe is actually a Pumpkin & Crab Risotto, but due to "IO Error" (for those of you who don't know, that stands for "Idiot Operator Error") it turned into my Sweet Potato & Crab Risotto. Seriously, who knew that canned pumpkin products are stashed in the grocery store's baking aisles? I posed this question to several friends and apparently everyone else knew except THIS blogger. Personally, I think this situation is quite misleading and something should be done about it. But I like sweet potatoes better than pumpkins anyway!

I also love risotto. If you've never made risotto before, know that it is a time-consuming dish to make, but it is so tasty once it's done. This recipe also yields several cups of risotto, so you can freeze leftovers to provide a quick meal later.

Sweet Potato & Crab Risotto
slightly adapted from Jennifer Adams' Pumpkin & Crab Risotto
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups Italian arborio rice
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup sweet potato puree**
  • 1 8 ounce container mascarpone cheese
  • 1 8 ounce package crab meat, shredded and cut into smaller lengths
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives (optional)
1) In a large pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high, until butter foams.
2) Add minced garlic and stir for a few minutes, until slightly tan and fragrant.
3) In the microwave, warm broth for 2-3 minutes.
4) Add rice to the pot and stir for two minutes. (Keep stirring so it doesn't burn. I may have first-hand knowledge of this.)
5) Pour one cup of broth over the rice and stir until the broth is absorbed and the rice begins to thicken with creaminess.
6) For 25-30 minutes, continue attentive stirring of the rice, adding a cup of broth every few minutes once the previous broth addition is absorbed, until all of the liquid is soaked up and the rice is tender and plump. (The broth doesn't have to be completely absorbed by the rice each time. You can add more broth once you see that most of the previous broth addition has been absorbed. After the last cup of broth has been added, keep in mind that you don't want the rice to completely absorb all the liquid in the pot. This will make your risotto dry. If the rice looks creamy and not "soup-y", you can move on.)
7) Lower the heat to medium-low. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, sweet potato puree, crab meat, mascarpone cheese, maple syrup and sweet paprika.
8) Serve immediately with a sprinkle of chives. This is optional.
** To my knowledge, there is no such thing as canned sweet potato puree. But there is such a thing as canned sweet potatoes in syrup. Combine half a can of sweet potatoes with a tablespoon or two of the syrup and some water in a food processor. I used maybe a few tablespoons of water...I didn't measure but I made sure it had the consistency of a pureed vegetable. If you have spare sweet potatoes laying around, or you just want to do more work, you can use actual sweet potatoes to make this. Just dice them after they're peeled and boiled, then throw them in the food processor until pureed.
The result was a creamy, delicious transition between fall and summer. The color of the risotto turned a beautiful orange once the sweet potato puree was added. Surprisingly, the crab didn't seem out of place at all! It blends perfectly with the sweet potato flavor and makes the dish feel lighter than it actually is. The cheeses only enhanced the creaminess factor. (And as we all know now, I love cheese. Especially melted cheese.). The paprika added a little bit of spice. If you want more spice, you can add more to the risotto. Or you could experiment with adding a dash of chili powder, to really up the ante!

If you're planning on recreating this dish using pumpkin instead of sweet potato, let me know how it turns out! I'd love to hear reactions to the pumpkin, since I wasn't able to make it myself. This recipe is absolutely delicious and I think it would remain delicious, regardless of whether sweet potatoes or pumpkins are used. Enjoy!