I am a scientist who loves to cook because there are many similarities between working in a lab and cooking in a kitchen. I love to share my cooking experience with you and to inspire others to cook.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Leeks and potato soup


I have never cook leeks before. I don't think I have ever eaten leeks before. Leeks and potato have a rhyme to it like they should go together like cookie and milk or chicken and rice.

When you think of leek, think of giant spring onion/scallion. I think they belong to the same family. I followed Alton Brown's recipe loosely and bought some leeks at the grocery store. I have no idea how to cook it so I watched a couple youtube videos for instructions.

4 large potatos
8 skinless chicken drumsticks (you can use chicken stock too instead of making your own stock)
4 large leeks
1 large onion

1 piece of dried bay leaf
A sprinkle of dried basil
A sprinkle of dried rosemary
A sprinkle of dried thyme
Chicken bouillon (optional)
Salt and Pepper.

1. Boil a medium pot of water.
2. Cook the chicken drumsticks for about 10 minutes.
3. Add the "Fragrance" ingredients to the soup.
4. At the same time, chop the potato into small pieces and add to the soup.

While the soup is cooking, start preparing and cooking the leeks.

5. Cut the roots and the leafy parts of the of leeks. You want the white-ish part.
6. Cut the leeks down the middle to slice it half.
7. Wash the leeks very carefully to remove all the dirt, especially near the root end.
8. Chop the leeks into small pieces.
9. Brown the onions in a pan with oil.
10. Add the leeks in to the pan and saute it in high heat for about 1-2 minutes. (the leeks are still hard at this point, but that's okay, further cooking in the chicken soup with break it down).
6. Transfer the leeks into the chicken soup pot.
7. Cook everything for 40 minutes in medium heat.
8. Remove the chicken thighs if you are using it.
9. Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream
10. Add 1 tablespoon of butter
11. Season with salt and pepper.
12. Use a handheld blender to blend everything in the soup until it becomes smooth. (Becareful of splashes when doing this. I advice doing it in the sink)

The soup is done!! I can't distinguish the taste of leek from the soup. I figured it is infused and blended in with everything else. I think the essence of the soup is the humble potato. There are many other soup combinations that you can try such as cauliflower potato or asparagus potato

I thought it will be a good idea to sprinkle some chopped spring onion since spring onion and leeks are families and families should embrace each other, right?  I also sprinkle some paprika for no reason but for color. Well, every family has something spicy, just like paprika.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Baked Brie with sundried tomato and pesto sauce


I have to first confess that I did not make this dish. However, it was made in my presence by SY and I have the permission to share the recipe with you.

This is one of those dishes that involves mainly "assembling" and very little prepping and cooking in advance.

1. One wheel of brie cheese
2. A few pieces of sun-dried tomatoe
3. A can of store-bought pesto sauce (you can make your own pesto sauce if you feel like making it)
4. Store bought Puff Pastry

1. Thaw the puff pastry according to manufacturer's instructions.
2. Once thawed, roll the puff pastry into a thinner layer of dough. Don't over do this.
3. Cut the brie into half and assemble it like you a hamburger. The brie is the "bun", the sun-dried tomato is the "meat", and the pesto sauce is the "ketchup".
4. Wrap this assembled brie with the puff pastry, like you are wrapping a package.

Addendum: Thanks to SY for pointing this out
"Tip! Freeze the wrapped brie for a little while before popping it into the over so that the brie won't get too soft while the pastry puffs up!"

5. Baked in a 400F oven until the puff pastry turns brown.

Thanks SY for sharing this recipe. It sure is something that can wow the crowd if you are attending a party. With little effort, this baked brie taste fantastic. There are so many variations that I can think of from my head.

Instead of sun-dried tomato, maybe portabello mushroom or any mushroom. I think shredded chicken/ground beef will work too (of course these needs to be cooked ahead).

Instead of pesto, you can use tomato paste. I have a crazy idea, how about a dollop of butter?

Be adventurous, be brave!!

Shepherd's Pie

Early this year I made this dish for the first time for my Irish friend and he approved it. Imagine that -- an Irish giving the thumbs up to a first-time Shepherd's Pie maker.

The truth is, making a shepherd's pie is easy although it takes a little bit of effort preparing the mash potato.

I adapted the recipe from Alton Brown's, which you can find it here. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/shepherds-pie-recipe2/index.html

As usual, I found ways to simplify the recipe while keeping the essence of it.

Ingredients (serves about 10 people)

For the mash potatoes:
6 russet potatoes
Milk/cream (optional)

For the meat filling:
2 onions, chopped
4-5 sticks of carrots, diced small
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2lbs of ground beef (I like 80% lean ground beef)
2 tsps tomato paste (make sure you read the label carefully and avoid buying tomato sauce)
2 pieces of chicken bouillon (dissolve in a little bit of water)
Worcestershire sauce
Rosemary leaves and thyme leaves (fresh would be best but dried can be an alternative albeit a poor alternative)
Frozen green peas
Black Pepper
Corn Flour/Regular Flour (to thicken the filling if necessary)


Mash potatoes

1. Boil the potatoes, with skin on, in a large pot of water for approximately 15 minutes (this is what I prefer but other alternative includes peeling potatoes and dicing it before boiling).

2. Rinse the potatoes in cold water and peel the skin.
3. Mash the potatoes with a sturdy fork or a masher.
4. Add 1-2 tablespoon of mayonnaise and 1-2 tablespoons of butter. Add salt to taste. If the mash potato is dry, you can add a splash of milk or cream.
5. Set this aside until the meat filling is ready.

Meat Filling (Pre-heat the oven to 400F while you are doing this)

1. Cook the onions until it turns lightly brown.
2. Add the carrot and cook for 3-4 minutes until soft then add the minced garlic
3. Add the ground meat and and cook the meat until it turns brown.
4. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, chicken bouillon water, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add a dollop of butter.
(Feel free to adjust the amount of sauce/paste/herbs/salt/pepper until you find the flavor that satisfies you)
6. Add the green peas
7. At this point, you want your meat filling somewhat dry. If there is too much liquid, add a little bit of corn starch/flour (dissolved in water first) to thicken it.

Baking the shepherd's pie
1. Transfer the meat filling to a baking dish until it reaches slightly more than half way point.
2. Fill the top with a layer of mash potatoes. I used my hand to form mash potatoes patties and put it on top of the meat filling.
3. Bake this for 20-30 minutes until the edges of the mash potatoes turn slight brown.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Artichoke Dip


JV planted the seed of making this dish in my head. DC made this dish two days later and I was blown away by how delicious this dish is. The first thing that knocked my socks off was the fragrant of the cheese and then the unique flavor of artichoke. I rarely eat artichoke because if you know this plant, you know that the essence of the plant is the "heart of the artichoke" which takes effort to get to.

Thankfully, you can buy cans of "artichoke heart"!!!!

The recipe that DC used was for spinach and artichoke dip but I omitted the spinach in my dish. The original recipe can be found here  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/hot-artichoke-and-spinach-dip-ii/detail.aspx

Here is my own tweaked-recipe

Ingredients (serves a party of 15-20 people as appetizers)

2 cans of artichoke hearts. Drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese or (1/4 cup of Parmesan + 1/4 cup of Romano cheese) or any cheese you like
2 cloves of garlic, minced
A pinch of salt
A pinch of black pepper
2 big tablespoons of regular cream cheese
2 big tablespoons of mayonnaise
Shredded mozzarella cheese


1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
2. Mix all the ingredients together. (except the shredded mozzarella cheese)
3. Transfer this into a medium size baking dish.
4. Spread the shredded mozzarella cheese over the top.
5. Bake for 25 minutes until the mozzarella turns light brown

To me, there is no easier dish than this. Assemble, mix, bake and eat. Melted cheese smells and taste divine. Especially if it is something "pungent" like parmesan cheese. 

The original recipe asked for 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and 8 ounces of cream cheese. This is what gives the dip its smooth and creamy texture and you can scoop it up with chips/toasted crackers.

If you follow my recipe, you will find that it is not as creamy because I reduced the amount of "fat" significantly. However, this artichoke dip is just as good if not healthier. All you need is the help of a fork!

Hope you will one day make this dish for your own party.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rosemary Garlic Tri-tip steak

This is another steak dish. The 3rd in this blog and it will not be the last as I continue to explore different flavors and marinade recipe.

I bought fresh rosemary from the grocery store instead of the dried rosemary that have been sitting in my pantry for years. This is definitely worth the money.

Also, I wonder what took me so long to buy a garlic press. This thing works wonder. I have seen it used many times. I have spent countless "hours" chopping and mincing garlic. Why didn't I buy this earlier in my "cooking career"?

Main Ingredient

1. Tri-tip steak (or any cut of steak that you like)

1. A stalk to fresh rosemary
2. 3 cloves of garlic. Finely chopped
3. A few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
4. A couple splashes of balsamic vinegar (better if you have Italian salad dressing, I learned this from Mr. A. Walker)
5. Fresh Ground Pepper

Cooking Instructions
1. Marinade the steak for at least 1 hour. Remember to rub the steak evenly with the marinade
2. Bring the steak up to room temperature before cooking (about 30 minutes).
3. Melt some butter on the pan
4. Cook the steak, each side for about 4 minutes depending on the thickness
5. Add more butter if you like.
6. Let the steak rest for 4 minutes before serving
7. Don't forget the salt!!

Unfortunately I overcooked this piece of steak because I misjudged the cooking time and the temperature of my pan. However, the overall flavor is amazing especially the rosemary. Now that I have cooked using fresh herbs, I don't think I will ever want to cook using those dried stuff on the shelves :)

What kind of marinade should I try next? Suggestions please.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mushroom Chicken Soup

Since I made the chicken mushroom glutinous rice, I was left with many chicken thigh bones! Yes, I thought ahead and saved them all after de-boning the thigh meat.

I put all the bones in a pot and boiled it. Once all the scum emerged, I changed the water to a fresh pot of water. Then I added about 8-10 shiitake mushrooms and a piece of thumb-size ginger.

That's all!  Isn't that simple? Oh, don't forget the salt.

Soup spoils easily, so I highly recommend that you freeze them in batches if you make a big pot of these.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Steamed Glutinous with Chicken and Mushroom (糯米鸡)

Traditionally this dish is eaten strictly during breakfast but I don't see why it can't be a lunch or dinner dish. I tried making this dish a couple times in the past but was not successful in replicating the consistency and taste which I grew up with.

Recently, my good friend over at http://chewsome.wordpress.com/  made this dish and that inspired me to try this dish again. Since then, I cooked this dish twice. I learned a few lessons during the first time and made a few modifications Please check out my friend's blog for the recipe that served as a guide for my own.

Recipe (serves 4-6)

Main Ingredients
1 cup of Glutinous rice 
2-3 pieces of boneless chicken thighs
5-8 pieces of shiitake mushroom

Rice seasoning
Pinch of salt
A splash of soy sauce
1 tsp five spice. (This is the key to a fragrant authentic taste)

Chicken Seasoning
2 tbs oyster sauce (optional)
a pinch of sugar
a pinch of white pepper
a pinch of cornflour or regular flour (This is also key. It will prevent your rice from becoming very oily. Add this only at the end of marination, right before you put the chicken on the rice)
a splash of rice wine
1 tsp thick soy sauce
two splashes of light soy sauce
1 thumb size ginger- grated
a splash of sesame oil

1. Wash the rice and soak it in water for at least 1 hour.
2. Wash the mushroom and soak it in water also for 1 hour.
3. Cut the chicken thighs into small pieces and add the chicken seasoning. Remember, do not add the cornflour at this point. Marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
4. Drain the rice and transfer it into a steaming vessel, add the juice from the mushroom.
5. Add the rice seasoning to the rice, add enough water until it covers the rice for about 1/2 inches, and mix everything together.
6. Steam the rice for about 30 minutes until the water is almost completely gone.
7. Slice the mushroom into thin slices and lay it on top of the rice.
8. Add the cornstarch to the chicken and put the chicken on top of the mushroom. (This layering is also very important)
9. Steam this for an additional 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
10. Garnish with scallions.

My second try is definitely miles better than my first trial. I think the ratio of rice to chicken + mushroom is important, since the taste of the mushroom and chicken are infused perfectly into the rice. I also learned the importance of five spice and cornstarch in my second trial.

Overall, I think I have replicated this dish (close to 80%) the way restaurants in Malaysia make them. Here is a very geeky description: The marinade of the chicken not only provides flavor to the chicken, it travels down and gathers the aroma of the mushroom (hence the importance of layering). This heavenly flavor then travels lower into the rice layer and infused itself into the rice grain.

For my readers who do not have access to ready-made 糯米鸡, I hope you will try out this dish. I am pretty sure you will enjoy it as I enjoyed mine.