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Monday, March 1, 2010

Test Kitchen: Kinda Sorta Asian Theme

For the second official [Sunday Night] Test Kitchen, I was all over the map with the food. But I managed to tie it together, if loosely, with an Asian theme. Kind of. Sort of.

The Menu
- Ginger Dipping Sauce
- Soy Vinaigrette
- Coconut Fried Shrimp
- Sweet & Sour Sauce
- Asparagus & Beef Rollups
- Scotch & Cheddar Fondue

My brother Erik, sister-in-law Zareena, and 2 year old nephew Baby Aladdin played the judges. Well, my nephew didn't really participate, but he did offer entertainment with his Mr. Potato Head.



It started with a simple Romaine salad. It was nothing fancy, but I whipped up two quick dressings for the judges to enjoy: a Ginger Dipping Sauce and a Soy Vinaigrette. (Unfortunately, I forgot to snap pictures of this part of the meal. Oops, bad blogger!)

As always, the recipes below are my edited versions. The links send you to the original.

Ginger Dipping Sauce
    1/4 cup chopped shallot
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
    1/2 lemon, juiced
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1/4 teaspoon sugar
    1/4 teaspoon white vinegar

In a blender, combine shallot, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar. Process until smooth. Serve at room temperature.

Soy Vinaigrette
    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    2 teaspoons soy sauce
    2 tablespoons rice vinegar
    2 tablespoons Oriental sesame oil
    1/4 cup vegetable oil

In a bowl whisk together the sugar, the soy sauce, the vinegar, and salt to taste, add the oils in a stream, whisking, and whisk the vinaigrette until it is emulsified. (I left out the toasted sesame seeds in the original recipe.)

My favorite was the vinaigrette. They liked both.

While they were enjoying the salad course, I worked on frying the Coconut Fried Shrimp to serve with homemade Sweet and Sour Sauce. Baby Aladdin munched on baked goldfish.
Coconut Fried Shrimp
    2 pounds large shrimp, shelled, deveined, leaving tail on
    1 cup flour
    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    1 cup ice water
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    2/3 cup grated coconut
    1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

Shell and devein shrimp, leaving tail intact; dry well. Combine flour, sugar, salt, egg, ice water, and vegetable oil; beat until smooth. Mix together coconut and curry powder. Dip shrimp into batter then into coconut mixture. Fry coconut shrimp in hot fat, about 370° until golden. Coconut shrimp serves 4 to 6.

Sweet & Sour Sauce   
    3/4 cup white sugar
    1/3 cup white vinegar
    2/3 cup water
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1 tablespoon ketchup
    2 tablespoons cornstarch

Place the sugar, vinegar, water, soy sauce, and ketchup in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Mix cornstarch with a bit of cold water until fully dissolved, then add to the mixture. Stir continuously until the mixture has thickened.

This was my personal favorite all night. Erik nearly inhaled the entire platter. Zareena and I were able to rescue a combined 4 shrimp for ourselves.

The main course was supposed to be lightly broiled Asparagus Beef Rollups. 
Asparagus Beef Rollups
  1 lb asparagus, trimmed to 6-inch pieces (about 15 pieces)
  1 lb beef sirloin steak, pounded thin

Orange Soy Marinade:
  1/2 cup soy sauce
  2 tbsp olive oil
  Juice of 1 orange
  A few orange segments
  2 garlic cloves, smashed
  1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes)
  1/2 tbsp Adobo all seasoning with cumin

Marinate the steaks in the bag for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Add asparagus to boiling water and boil for 1 minute to blanch. Remove asparagus and set aside to cool.

Slice marinaded steak into 12 equal-sized strips. Take 2 to 4 pieces of asparagus and lay together at one end of a beef strip. Roll up and place seam side down in a glass baking dish. Repeat for remaining 11 beef strips. Bake in oven for 7 minutes. Turn oven up to broil and place baking sheet under broiler for 3 minutes. Serve immediately. Spoon pan juices over roll ups.

I made the mistake of forgetting these in the oven! They cooked for 20 minutes under the high heat. The meat wasn't too bad, if you like it well-done with a bit of a char.

The end piece for the night had little to do with Asia, but made up of two of my favorite things: scotch and cheese. I'd found this fondue recipe by accident via Imbibe the week before, and decided it had to be part of the menu.
Scotch Highland Fondue
   1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
   1 small shallot, finely chopped (I always sub out shallots for onions)
   1 1/4 cups whole milk
   1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
   1 Tbsp. cornstarch
   1/4 cup Scotch whisky

In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the onion until soft, about five minutes. Add the milk and heat until bubbles form. Gradually add the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring each time until the cheese is completely melted. In a small bowl, blend together the cornstarch and whiskey; stir into the cheese mixture and cook until blended, two to three minutes. Salt to taste. Transfer to a fondue pot and keep warm over low heat. Serve with bowls of bread cubes and sliced apples and baby carrots.

The milk curds separated out (which was unattractive).  Except I didn't realize that at the time, I just thought the cheese wasn't melting. Now I know better.


By the time we finally got to the fondue, we were so full we didn't even finish it. But it was so good, we kept trying to force more down our gullets. We capped off the night with a couple glasses of almond champagne from Wilson Creek in Temecula, CA. There's nothing Asian about that either, but it was bubbly, so who cares?

Baby Aladdin and I then made pirate hats out of construction paper. Because we're pirates!

I was completely satisfied with the shrimp and sweet and sour sauce. But it was an amibitious menu. Next time, I'll keep it to 2 dishes. And the fondue deserves another go around. I know I can make that better.

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