One of my favorite restaurants back home serves a mean creamed corn. Decadent, syrupy-sweet, almost like a custard. (Whenever my dad orders it and the waitress asks if we’d like dessert, he always says, “Got my dessert right here!” and holds it up with big grin. My father is a faithful subscriber to the school of Jolly Dad Banter.) To me, it’s one of the ultimate comfort foods, a dish that typifies warm, indulgent Southern nourishment.
Happy Lunar New Year, friends! It’s been kind of a long week, so I won’t write too much today. Instead, I’ll just leave you with this super easy-peasy recipe for the quintessential LNY dessert — cute little teeny mochi, up on Food52 today. I was absolutely thrilled with how these came out. The only variations on mochi I’d made in the past were nian gao, which is a bit cakier, since it’s baked uncovered, and butter mochi, which is quite a bit oilier, because … butter. These are made tightly covered with foil, and they came out of the oven dreamily soft but still chewy, substantial but still light, with just the right amount of sweetness. And cutting them up and powdering them made me feel like an old-timey red-and-white-stripes confectioner.
You can do so much more with this blank canvas recipe, too. I made another batch using one teaspoon of matcha powder (whisked into the dry ingredients) and 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract (added to the wet), and was obsessed with them. (Not shown, because our carbon monoxide alarm went off just as they went into the oven … a story for another day… and they came out looking kind of special.) I’m also kind of dying to try it with rosewater? (Turkish delight, but MOCHI.) So many possibilities.
TGIF and happy Year of the Horse!
Here’s what not to do when making tea eggs. Do not:
1. Go to law school, and in your first year, get really stressed and sleep-deprived, then decide to destress by making them in your communal kitchen that is down the hallway and through some locked doors from your dorm room.
2. Make them in your faraway communal kitchen, at night, when you are tired and sleep-deprived, and then think it is a good idea to leave them unattended while they simmer for a few hours. No biggie.
3. Go back to your room.
4. Fall asleep.
5. Until the next morning.
Guys! I made ice cream!
Last summer, I stumbled upon Carey’s gem of a blog, Reclaiming Provincial, by way of this remarkable ice cream — a honey-thyme & blackberry-goat cheese swirl ice cream. Let’s repeat that and just let it marinate for a second. Honey. Thyme. Blackberries. And goat cheese. I can’t remember the last time I’ve so instantly known that something would be delicious. Creamy yet tangy, probably wonderfully smooth, definitely all-around awesome — I was completely captivated.
So naturally, the moment I found myself with a (highly impractical, highly large, but highly coveted) ice cream maker that I’d thrown on my Amazon wishlist for Christmas and just assumed no one would actually buy for me (Lesson #1 in Amazon-Wishlist-Making: Fully visualize the possibility that you might actually own the thing you are carelessly telling other people to spend their money on for you, also, THANKS MA!) I knew I wanted to try making an ice cream like it. (Sidenote: Unfortunately, this does require an ice cream maker. I know, it’s a bummer if you don’t have one…)
But given that this is not quite the season for blackberries, and given that I had just one more pear leftover from the poached pears I made for these pear and almond galettes back in October (yeah, time stops in the freezer), I didn’t make exactly that ice cream. Instead, I went with a riff on Carey’s that incorporates a lot of the same elements, but rearranged a bit — the goat cheese went in the ice cream base, and I pureed the pear with its poaching syrup to make a pear swirl instead.
I don’t really associate New Year’s Eve with champagne or sequins. Instead, I associate New Year’s with food — maybe even more than Thanksgiving or Christmas, at my house, New Year’s Eve meant a family feast. A traditional Chinese New Year (and regular December 31 New Year’s Eve, because we totally double-down on our New Year’s celebrations) at my house was hot pot and “long life noodles,” hot pot because it symbolized prosperity and celebration, and noodles because they symbolize … well, long life.
I’ve grown up eating savory-sweet food all my life. I thought it was just a quirk of my mother’s to add sugar to everything until I looked up Shanghainese cuisine on Wikipedia a few years ago and found that, evidently, it’s a Shanghai thing. Nowadays, I follow exactly in my mom’s footsteps and add a bit (or a lot) of sugar to almost everything I make — pasta sauces, soy sauce glazes, stews, whatever. I drench my sausage links in maple syrup. (One of my earliest memories is dunking sausage links in maple syrup at Bob Evans. What an underrated restaurant. Did anyone else have family dinners there?)
But the advent of adding savory to sweet only came upon me recently — mainly in the addition of bacon. To everything. Most recently, chocolate chip cookies and pancakes. I can understand feeling squeamish about bacon in chocolate chip cookies — but in pancakes? The bacon’s usually right next to them anyway. It’s only right. It just makes life easier. And infinitely more delicious.
For these, I just used the same go-to “buttermilk” pancake base that I got from Joy the Baker. I’ve never looked back since trying it — it’s fluffy, pillowy-soft but substantial, and it gives your local diner’s version a run for its money. I put buttermilk in quotes because I’ve never actually used buttermilk in it — I always use a mix of half Greek yogurt and half milk (any kind, almond, soy, or regular) and it’s never steered me wrong. I don’t think you’d ever guess it wasn’t buttermilk pancakes straight from IHOP or your favorite diner.
And then I added bacon!
So. Good. (Oh yeah, and that’s me deciding that ramekin of maple syrup wasn’t enough and getting serious with the Aunt Jemima.) Edit: Since a lot of you don’t like savory and sweet together — totally understandable — I just wanted to add that this pancake base is phenomenal with pretty much anything. Slices of banana, blueberries, Reese’s Pieces (!), or, if you’re feeling super decadent, instant espresso, chocolate chips, and Nutella. My personal favorite after bacon might be Reese’s Pieces — seriously awesome. And I never find I need syrup with those, so it might balance out to be better for you?! Relatively.
This is what we’re having for Christmas morning this year — hope you have something equally comforting and cozy lined up, too. And if not, try this. 😉 Merry Christmas, friends!
Here are three situations that I should have learned how to handle better at some point in my upbringing but never did. Ready?
1. Sharing free food. Or, how to go to that lunch talk with the pizza from that place you like and wait in line without freaking out about whether that person ahead of you is going to get the last piece of pepperoni pizza or wondering how you can subtly take extra to save for dinner because you’re cheap.
2. Other people giving me free food. Or, how to politely accept one of whatever has just been offered you by a friend, then eat it, placidly, without immediately convincing yourself that what you just ate was the most delicious thing on the planet and you are so missing out on life and happiness because you could only have one.
3. Those two situations combined into a mega-situation, or, what happened last Christmas, when a neighbor dropped by my parents’ house and left us a sleeve of cookies – big, cheerful, cranberry-studded shortbread cookies with flecks of sunny orange zest. Man, those cookies were so good. Either because I couldn’t get them anywhere else but from this goddess-baker-neighbor, or because I had to share them with the rest of my family, I swear to God those cookies were the best cookies I’d ever had. I coveted the crap out of them. I calculated how many I could fairly eat without hogging them … and then I ate some more. After I’d had (more than) my fair share, I stared at them wherever they were and stared at each of my family members as they ate theirs. It was so normal.
Please still be my friend.
I grew up in a relatively small city in the South. It’s big enough to have an airport, but small enough that that airport only has five gates (and one direct flight to NY that I never take because it costs approximately a billion million dollars) — big enough that some people have heard of it, but small enough that a nod and an “Oh, right, right,” is as much as they can muster. 🙂 (Occasionally, I’ll meet someone who actually drove through it.) It was also small enough that, growing up, I can remember the first restaurant of almost every kind of unusual cuisine opening up in town — the first Korean restaurant, Thai, Vietnamese, etc. — and I can also remember the first time I ever had any of those kinds of foods. The first time I had pork bulgogi, then known to me only as “Korean spicy BBQ pork,” I thought it was the most ridiculously delicious dish I’d ever tasted, and I thought that that one god-like restaurant must have been the only place in existence that could create such a magnificent mouth-party. Logical. (And thus began a lifelong love affair with Korean food.)
I have a problem. It’s now been a week and a day of my visit home to my parents. In that time, I’ve baked three dozen mini matcha shortbread cookies, a dozen almond rosemary shortbread cookies, some topsy-turvy cinnamon rolls (next time I’ll roll you properly, little ones), pumpkin cupcakes, and green tea cupcakes. It’s a little excessive. It’s gotten to the point where, every time I come into the kitchen, my mother cries, “Not again!” and leaves the room muttering about her waistline.
Butter mochi! The subject of my third and final installment of this little series on Hawaiian foods (parts 1 and 2 were on ahi poke and Spam musubi). I love all the ways that Hawaii is a blend of Asian and Western influences — when it comes to food, it can only mean good things. For instance, I’m not the biggest fan of traditional Asian mochi, like the Chinese nian gao with red bean paste, because it’s a bit too chewy and bland for me. But when amped up with more sugar and a whole (!) stick of butter, the Hawaiian version becomes pretty delicious.