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Top Eight Favorite Dim Sum Plates

February 16, 2010 2 comments

From savory dumplings dipped in soy sauce and chili paste to sweet deep-fried sesame balls, here are my top eight picks for my favorite dim sum plates. What’s on your list?

Dumplings and Bao

1. Har Gow — shrimp dumpling

2. Spinach shrimp dumpling

Har Gow (Shrimp Dumpling)

3. Chicken feet with black bean sauce

4. Bee’s nest taro puff — fried taro dumpling

Bee's Nest Taro Puff

5. Shiu mai — pork dumplings with diced mushroom

6. Char siu bao — steamed barbecue pork buns (click here to learn how to make baos from scratch)

Char Siu Bao

7. Custard tart

8. Deep-fried sesame seed ball with sweet red bean paste

Deep-fried Sesame Ball

Where can you enjoy fresh and great-tasting dim sum in the Bay Area?

Koi Palace
365 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015
650.992.9000
koipalace.com

Yank SIng
101 Spear Street between Howard Street and Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
415.957.9300
yanksing.com

City View
662 Commercial Street between Kearny Street and Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
415.398.2838

Brining Chicken Thomas Keller-Style

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Brining is an amazing tool to cure meats and to season them uniformly.  Here is Thomas Keller’s recipe for chicken brine that you can use for roasting or frying chicken.

Chicken Brine Thomas Keller-Style

The key ingredient is lemon, which goes wonderfully well with chicken. Adding the herbs: bay leaf, parsley and thyme gives the chicken a wonderful aromatic flavor.

The recipe makes 2 gallons of brine which is enough for 10 pounds of chicken.  This  may be a bit much for a single person, a couple, or a small family.  I recommend either brining a big batch and freezing the brined chicken that you won’t use or simply dividing the recipe accordingly depending on how much chicken you are going to cook.

5 lemons, halved
24 bay leaves
1 bunch (4 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch (1 ounce) thyme
1/2 cup honey
1 head garlic, halved through the equator
1/4 cup black peppercorns
1 cups (10 ounces) kosher salt
2 gallons water

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely, then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the chicken pieces, add the chicken, and refrigerate for 12 hours. The chicken may be too salty if you brine the chicken for more than 12 hours.

Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse with cold water, pat dry with paper towels and let it rest at room temperature for over an hour. Roast or fry the chicken.

Here is Thomas Keller’s recipe for his amazing Buttermilk Fried Chicken.

How to Make Ad Hoc Fried Chicken At Home

January 20, 2010 7 comments

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Driving home from Napa, still under the spell of the best fried chicken I have ever had, I started planning on recreating Thomas Keller’s famed fried chicken. There are two things that set Keller’s fried chicken apart from the rest.  First, the chicken is brined for 12 hours in a herb-lemon brine, which seasons the meat and makes it moist and juicy.  The key ingredient is lemon, which goes wonderfully with chicken.  And second, the chicken is dredged in flour seasoned with garlic and onion powders, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper, then dipped in buttermilk and then dredged again in the flour.

The following day I bought myself a copy of Ad Hoc At Home and then assembled the ingredients for my very first homemade Ad Hoc fried chicken.

Buying and Brining the Bird

The recipe calls for 2-1/2 to 3 pound chickens. As Keller suggests, cooking smaller chickens, typically found in farmers’ markets and smaller grocery stores, gives the optimum meat-to-crust proportion, which is critical to excellent fried chicken.

Cut the whole chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings. Keller is a huge advocate of buying whole chickens.  It’s a way to become more intimate with the act of cooking, he says and I agree.  For those who have not attempted  to cut a whole chicken before, let me forewarn you: it is not easy.  But I guess like anything else, practice makes perfect.  For the faint of heart, you can always buy a whole chicken and have it butchered before taking it home.

10 Piece Chicken Cut

For the Chicken Brine

5 lemons, halved
24 bay leaves
1 bunch (4 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch (1 ounce) thyme
1/2 cup honey
1 head garlic, halved through the equator
1/4 cup black peppercorns
1 cups (10 ounces) kosher salt
2 gallons water

Ingredients for Chicken Brine

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely, then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

The recipe makes two gallons of brine that is good for 10 pounds of chicken (3 to 4 whole chickens), which may be a bit much for a single person, a couple or a small family.  I recommend either brining a big batch and freezing the brined chicken that you won’t use or simply dividing the recipe accordingly depending on how much chicken you are going to cook.  I made fried chicken using a single 3-pound chicken and ended up using 1/3 of the amount of each ingredient and it worked fine.  The important thing to remember is to keep the proportions intact.

Pour the brine into a container  large enough to hold the chicken pieces, add the chicken, and refrigerate for 12 hours.  The chicken may be too salty if you brine the chicken for more than 12 hours.

Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse with cold water, pat dry with paper towels and let it rest at room temperature for over an hour.

Dredging and Frying the Bird

Keller recommends peanut oil for deep frying, which I found to be rather elusive when I was shopping for groceries.  I ended up using canola oil, which he, likewise, recommends.  Fill the pot with at least 2 inches deep of oil and heat to 320 degrees F.  If you have the luxury of two large pots and a lot of oil, you can cook the dark meat in one pot and white meat in another pot.  Otherwise, cook the dark meat first, then turn up the heat and cook the white meat.  Note that the oil should not come more than 1/3 of the way up the sides of the pot.

For Dredging and Frying

1 quart buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
peanut or canola oil

For the Coating

6 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Again the coating recipe is good for a large batch. For frying just a single 3-pound chicken, I found that using 1/3 of the amount of each ingredient is more than sufficient. Do not be too consumed about measuring the right amount of spices. Feel free to experiment and use the recipe just as a guide.

Transfer half the coating to a second large bowl. Pour the buttermilk on a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station: the chicken pieces, one bowl of coating, the bowl of buttermilk, and the second bowl of coating.

Fried Chicken Dipping Station

Start with the chicken thighs.  Just before frying, dip the chicken thighs into the first bowl of coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess.  Dip them into the buttermilk, then dip into the second bowl of coating.  Carefully lower the thighs into the hot oil.  Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the temperature of the oil at 320 degrees F.  Turn the chicken pieces carefully around in the oil and monitor the temperature.  Fry until the chicken is deep golden brown in color, cooked through and very crispy.  The recipe recommends 11 to 12 minutes of frying but, seriously, one important thing I realized is that if you follow the recipe (or any recipe for that matter) to the dot and you get too consumed about details you end up burning the chicken!  Frying for 11 to 12 minutes is not set in stone.  The deep golden brown color, I think, is a better gauge of completeness.

Keller recommends skimmers and spiders instead of tongs when handling the chicken pieces.  Lifting food from below, rather than pinching onto it, allows you to work the food gently.

Using Spiders Instead of Tongs when Making Fried Chicken

Transfer the fried thighs to a cooling rack skin-side-up to allow excess fat to drain.  Make sure that the oil is at 320 degrees F.  Coat and fry the chicken drumsticks.  Turn up the heat and set the oil temperature to 340 degrees F.  Coat and fry the chicken breast and wings.  Make sure to carefully lower the chicken pieces into the hot oil and fry until golden brown and cooked through.

Arrange the chicken on a serving platter.  Add rosemary and thyme sprigs to the oil, which will still be hot and you’ll know what I mean when you drop the herb sprigs in the hot oil.  Let them cook and crisp for a few seconds and use them to garnish your chicken.

A final Keller note is that they let the chicken rest for 7 to 10 minutes after it comes out of the fryer.  If the chicken has rested longer than 10 minutes, keep the chicken in a 400 degree F oven for a minute or two to ensure that the skin is crisp and the chicken is hot.

I love fried chicken.  I really do.  The recipe sounds a bit complicated but you’ll be rewarded with genuinely tasty fried chicken.

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Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Made at Home

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Night

January 19, 2010 2 comments

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I have found the best fried chicken.

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken

It’s in Yountville in Napa Valley fifty miles north of the Golden Gate.   It’s served every other Monday night in Thomas Keller’s amazing Ad Hoc. The fried chicken is by far the best I have had.  The skin is crispy, the meat is moist, the chicken is perfectly fried with an incredible aromatic flavor, which I was told comes from lemons, the key ingredient used in the chicken brine.  They brine their chicken overnight before they are coated in buttermilk and spices and then deep fried.

Ad Hoc offers a topnotch 4 course family style menu that changes everyday using the freshest, local and seasonal ingredients.  The wine list is accessible and outstanding.  The staff is accommodating and friendly.  The dining room is casual yet elegant: hardwood floors with tables lined with a metallic top that beautifully reflects the light toward the ceiling.  Our dining experience truly reminded us of the warmth of dining at home.

The buttermilk fried chicken was amazing but there were also other noteworthy highlights throughout the evening.

Ad Hoc Salad Course, Mixed baby Greens

Our fried chicken night started with a salad of baby mixed greens: living watercress, shaved brussels sprouts, 
red radish, nantes carrots, polenta croutons
 and sweet fennel vinaigrette.  The greens with a light drizzle of the sweet fennel vinaigrette was refreshing but the real star of this dish is the polenta croutons, which is simply fried polenta, a delightful discovery.

The chicken was served family-style with roasted cauliflower and carolina gold rice, hot smoked pork and 
cranberry beans.  The roasted cauliflowers came with 
capers, golden raisins, and pine nuts.  The dish was so simple yet so delicious.  And the rice, pork and beans dish was amazing as well.

Ad Hoc Roasted cauliflower with Capers, Pine Nuts and Raisins

Ad Hoc Rice, Pork and Beans

The cheese course was Pedrozo Dairy Northern Gold
 with sweet butternut quickbread.  And a trio of cupcakes, devil’s food, lemon curd, red velvet nicely capped off the evening.

Ad Hoc Trio of Cupcakes

Ad Hoc is an hour and a half away from the city but saying that it’s well worth the drive is seriously an understatement.  I highly recommend the place to both locals and visitors alike.

Fried chicken night is every other Monday night.  You can check out Ad Hoc’s daily menu at their site to find out what’s for dinner.

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On Missing Home and Reminiscing with a Plateful of Jollibee Chickenjoy

December 10, 2009 1 comment

Jollibee Chickenjoy

It must be the chilly start to winter. Or my dear friend, Alvin’s visit over Thanksgiving.  Or the Christmas carols over the radio.  But whatever it is I am starting to miss home.

I have spent many Christmases away and this year will not be any different as Dennis, Stanford and I are spending Christmas in the city.  But I still feel a little homesick when this time of the year comes.  Christmas is huge back home, filled with traditions and brimming with Mom’s great food.  Plus I particularly love the fact that the festivities are stretched two weeks out with more food and more presents over New Year’s and my birthday in January.  As the youngest and the only boy in a family of eight, I fancied the lavish attention when I was growing up.

To shake off the holidays blues, I decided to seek out food in the city that reminds me of home and make up a list of my own favorite Filipino comfort food.  At the top of my list is a plateful of fresh, crispy, and juicy Jollibee Chickenjoy.

Growing up back in Manila, a trip to Jollibee with my Mom and sisters was more than a treat, it was an event.  My family wasn’t well-off and I certainly looked forward to the rare times when we would treat ourselves to fried chicken with rice, and french fries if we were lucky.  My sister, Vangie, actually started her restaurant career at Jollibee.  She would bring home goodies like burgers and fries every now and then and I would stay up late to wait for her when she worked the night shift.  And when my sister, Liz, bought a tiny second-hand Toyota, we would cram five people and drive to pick Vangie up at Jollibee and get free vanilla and chocolate fudge sundaes on the way home.

Those were the days.

Mission Fried Chicken Sandwich

November 8, 2009 2 comments

Mission Fried Chicken Sandwich

Today was my second trip to Mission Burger in ten days.  I have been raving about their burger ever since I discovered their clandestine operations at Duc Loi in the Mission and I promised Dennis that I’d take him there as soon as we get the chance.  Dennis is my trusted burger connoisseur, among other things, and so I was curious to know what he thinks of it.

After a hike from the Dogpatch to Dolores and back, we made a pit stop at Mission Burger for lunch today.  I was thrilled.  Dennis got their burger and fries and I, on the other hand, feasted on their new offering: the fried chicken sandwich.

Harrison free-range chicken with crispy chicken skin, pickled jalapeño, cucumber, shredded lettuce and secret sauce on an Acme roll.

It was amazing.

The sweet and hot pickled jalapeños complemented the crispy and salty fried chicken very well.  And the crispy chicken skin was a wonderful bonus.  It was a bit messy but all great fried chicken sandwiches are messy anyway!

Just a few notes about Mission Burger.  Should you order fries? Absolutely.  If you’re not a lemonade person, such as myself, grab a drink at Duc Loi since they only serve mint lemonade and nothing else, not even water.  The dining area is a little snug and you may end up enjoying lunch on a milk crate but, seriously, who cares?  And their sandwiches are only $8, it’s an amazing deal.  They’re even donating $1 from every sandwich to the San Francisco Food Bank.  And a final word, they’re open everyday except Thursday.

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