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Posts Tagged ‘custard’

Since probably the mid 80’s, Thai cuisine has seen an explosion of popularity, likely due to a booming post-war tourism industry in Southeast Asia. As all popular things do, Thai cuisine was quickly adopted as the trendy go-to cuisine in America, built to excess, and generally ruined. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good dish of Pad Thai as much as the next person might. But a vast difference can be found from one pad thai to another. Generally, when seeking out foreign cuisines, look for recipes that aren’t written in english.

Thailand is host to a litany of amazing dishes exemplifying the core four flavors of their cuisine: sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. One thing that people don’t necessarily think about, however (maybe I can’t speak for you, but I’ve really never considered it), is what breakfast looks like in this part of the world. Rice and noodles are all well and good, but when it comes to the most important meal of the day I’ll usually reach for something a bit more familiar.

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Pa Thong Ko are a Thai version of a traditional Chinese-style cruller. Crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside; They’re almost more similar to the fried bread dough you’d get from a dirty cart at the county fair. Served with coconut jam (which is really a custard), you can see the influence from French colonialism, much the same way that the Banh Mi came about in Vietnam.

According to Thai tradition, the traditional X shaped fritters represent two inseparable lovers, always seen together. In stark contrast, Chinese tradition recounts a tale of two evil men who were put to death in boiling oil.

Pa Thong Ko, adapted from SheSimmers
makes 10-12 fritters

  • Bread Flour*, 260g
  • Active Dry Yeast, 2g
  • Baker’s Ammonia, 2g
  • Alum Powder, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Kosher Salt, 8g
  • Granulated Sugar, 14g
  • Warm Water, 170g (3/4 cup)
  • Vegetable Oil, 1 tablespoon, plus more as needed
  • Baking Powder, 4g

Combine all ingredients except baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 8 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and lightly coat top of dough with oil. Cover with a towel and allow to rise 4-5 hours. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and lightly dust flour over dough. Sprinkle baking powder over dough. Fold and knead about 4 times. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut to desired shapes.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat 4-5 inches of vegetable oil to 350F. Fry dough until deep brown and crispy, 1-2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil

*Yes, you can use All-Purpose flour

Sangkhaya (Coconut Jam/Custard)
makes just over 1 cup

  • Egg Yolk, large, 4 each
  • Palm Sugar, 3 tablespoons
  • Granulated Sugar, 5 tablespoons
  • Coconut Milk, full-fat, 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
  • Dried Pandan Leaf**, about 1/4 cup
  • Kosher Salt, 1/8 teaspoon

Combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk vigorously until thick and creamy. Meanwhile, heat coconut milk, pandan and salt in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. While whisking, add 1/3 of the hot coconut milk to the egg yolk mixture. Continue whisking until full incorporated. While whisking, add egg mixture to remaining coconut milk. Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking very frequently, until sauce is thick, about 5-8 minutes. Once thick, immediately remove from heat, transfer sauce to a bowl or other container and refrigerate until cooled completely.

**If you can’t find pandan or don’t want to buy it, substitute 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

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First cultivated in Andes Mountains of Peru between 8000 and 5000 BCE, varieties of potatoes were taken back with explorers and sailors across the Atlantic in the 16th Century and quickly became a staple crop across Europe, and eventually spread into Asia as well. From humble beginning, potatoes can now be found in traditional recipes spanning cuisines across the globe. While there are many different shapes, colors, and varieties of potatoes, they all come from the tuberous part of the plant. A tuber is an enlarged, edible stem of a plant, rather than root vegetables, such as carrots or sweet potatoes, which are the edible roots of a plant. Baked, boiled or fried, potatoes are one of the most versatile ingredients around, and the star of the show for the 13th week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge!

After last week’s fiasco with the tripe, I was left pining for some of the great food I had in Italy. I had almost let it slip past until a friend has mentioned it, but this week hit the two-year mark since I went on the trip. It seems so weird how quickly the time passes. But as much as we try and stop it, life goes on. With Italy on the mind,  I tried to think back to anything that would fit the theme for this week. One obvious route would be a classic gnocchi, which I had more than my fill of in the northern regions of the country. As we moved southward, the dishes became much lighter: heavy cream sauces were replaced with lighter butter or wine sauces and braised hunks of meat became fresh caught seafood. It was really cool to see just how much cuisine can vary by the regions. In Tuscany, however, the cuisine was really unique. The heavier influences of the north were still apparent, but lighter foods were beginning to make an appearance. Just outside of the small commune of Monteriggioni, familiar to fans of the Assassin’s Creed series as the home base of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, we ate a small, family owned restaurant for dinner. Among the various courses that were served was a dish that I had never seen anything like. It was a delicate custard filled with pureed potatoes and local pecorino cheese. In America, savory custards aren’t particularly common, so the thought never really crossed my mind. This was truly a one-of-a-kind experience though. It was rich and starchy like any good mashed potato should be, but perfectly smooth and creamy, with the salt of the Pecorino offsetting the subtle sweetness of the custard. I had a feeling that I would never again have something quite like that potato flan, but I knew I had to at least give it a shot.

potato flan

I think that this must have been a recipe created at the restaurant and not a traditional preparation. After hours of research, I couldn’t find a recipe that was even close to what we were served that night. I had to get creative with it. Any American recipes I found were for a sweet potato flan with caramel, to be served for dessert. Another recipe was closer to a quiche than a custard; a dead end in the opposite direction of the dessert recipe. I ended up combining several different methods and recipes to achieve the result. And the outcome? Delicious. The flavor was nearly identical to what I remember, although the texture was lacking that ultra-smoothness that made it so great. I think that if I had pureed my potatoes with some milk or cream prior to adding them to the custard base it would have come out much more smooth. The preparation was super simple, and now that I have it down I can tweak the recipe until it comes out just the way I want it to.

Of all the great things in Italy, I would probably go back just to have this dish along. Since I was there, all I’ve wanted to do is to go back and spend more time in Italy. There’s just something about it that’s completely enthralling. From a traveler’s perspective, the country itself if full of beautiful landscapes and rich history, but from a cook’s perspective it’s even more fascinating. The cooks, chefs, farmers and winemakers I met there were some of the most passionate people I’ve ever encountered. In America, I feel like cooks become jaded really quickly and lose what brought them to the kitchen in the first place. But when you’ve been making the same wine for fifty years and still cry from happiness when telling people about it, that’s some serious dedication. I really hope that one day I’ll have something in my life that will do that to me.

Potato Pecorino Flan

makes about 4 flan

  • Yukon Gold Potatoes, 12 ounces (about 4 small potatoes)
  • Dry White Wine, 1 cup
  • Eggs, 4 each
  • Half & Half, 1 cup
  • Heavy Cream, 1/4 cup
  • Salt, 1/4 teaspoon
  • Sugar, 1/2 cup
  • Pecorino Cheese, grated, 1/2 cup

Preheat oven to 350F. Bake potatoes until cooked through and tender, about 1 1/2 hours. While potatoes are baking, heat a sauce pot over medium-high heat and reduce wine to 2 tablespoons. Remove potatoes from oven and maintain oven temperature. Remove flesh from potatoes and puree until smooth.  In a large bowl, whip eggs until frothy.  To eggs, add potato, reduced wine, half & half, cream, salt, sugar, and cheese. Continue whipping mixture until smooth. Divide custard into 4 oven-proof ramekins. Place ramekins into a roasting dish and add enough water to reach 3/4 of the way up the ramekins. Bake at 350F until custards are set in the center, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and transfer ramekins to a dry towel. Allow to cool slightly. To serve, run a warm knife along the edge of the ramekin to release the custard and invert onto a serving plate.

 

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