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February 2017

Canadian Recipes/ Featured

Steak Tacos with Pico de Gallo

You guys, I am currently dealing with a first world problem. I cannot decide whether or not to take a hot holiday. My husband and I have gone to Mexico or Cuba every single winter since we’ve been together. However, this year is a little different as we have our little baby. When we had her, I had resigned myself to the fact that we will not have a hot holiday this year. But then I’ve had so many friends say that now is the time to go – I’m on mat leave with all the free time in world, it’s easier to travel with an infant who’s not mobile yet and is still breastfeeding, it’s easier to travel with one kid, etc. I’ve even had friends recommend great resorts in Mexico that are extremely baby friendly and provide essential items such as cribs, strollers, bouncers, etc when requested. And then of course social media – I long for a hot holiday every time I see pictures of my friends’ vacations on Facebook and Instagram.

Why am I hesitating? Well, the frugal, sensible side of me says that I shouldn’t waste money on a holiday when I’m on a maternity leave income. Also, even though we won’t be trying for another baby for long awhile, I’m worried about the Zika virus. And then there’s just the general anxiety of travelling with a baby – will she cry uncontrollably on the plane? Will she get sick in Mexico? Will I enjoy the vacation or will I just be worried and anxious about her the entire time?

I am still battling with this decision, and I’ve spent hours scouring TripAdvisor reviews of baby friendly resorts in Mexico. I’ve sent an email off to a travel agent listing my specific requirements (my budget, direct flight, short flight, baby friendly, quality food, etc). Let’s see what options she comes up with. I’ll make a game time decision if she comes up with a place that I can’t resist!

So with Mexico on my mind, I decided to make some steak tacos and pico de gallo for supper. This meal definitely hit the spot and it also earned rave reviews from the husband.

The recipe for the pico de gallo calls for cilantro, but as you can see from my picture, I didn’t have any cilantro in mine. My husband falls into the category of people who think cilantro tastes like soap. Our pico de gallo was definitely lacking because of that. Next time, I’ll make two batches – one with cilantro for me, and one without for him. This pico de gallo recipe makes  a lot, so be prepared to have some leftovers. I had scrambled eggs for breakfast for a couple mornings and had some pico on the side – so delicious!

pico de gallo

For the steak, I had bought a couple of top sirloin grilling steaks that were on sale. After being marinated and grilled and sliced against the grain, they were extremely tender and flavourful!

Serve with a cold Corona and dream of the hot holiday that you may or may not go on!

Steak Tacos with Pico de Gallo

Print Recipe
Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • FOR THE TACOS:
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 packet fajita seasoning mix (I bought the Old El Paso brand)
  • 2 top sirloin grilling steaks (sorry, I didn't pay attention to how big they were!)
  • 1 package of corn tortillas (I bought the Dempster brand, small size)
  • FOR THE PICO DE GALLO:
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 4 large jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

1

MARINATING THE STEAKS:

2

Combine the olive oil, vinegar and fajita seasoning mix in a large ziplock bag. Add the steaks and ensure that the steaks are fully coated with the marinade.

3

Seal and refrigerate overnight.

4

TO MAKE THE TACOS:

5

Remove marinated steaks from fridge and let come to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

6

Heat a large cast iron pan or skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. When pan is hot, remove the steak from the marinade and place in pan.

7

Sear the steak by cooking each side for about 5-10 minutes. The steaks I used were pretty thick and I did ten minutes per side, and it was done to a medium rare (as seen in the pictures).

8

Once the steak is done, transfer to a large plate or cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes.

9

Slice steak thinly against the grain and serve in the warm corn tortillas. (I placed my tortillas on my grill top on medium-low heat for a couple minutes per side). Top with the fresh pico de gallo and enjoy!

10

TO MAKE THE PICO DE GALLO:

11

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Squeeze in the juice of two limes and add the salt.

12

Mix all ingredients together and add more salt if necessary.

13

Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Beer and Wine Pairings/ Featured/ Vietnamese Recipes

Soy Sauce Chicken

Sometimes whole chickens are on sale and I buy a couple and they sit in the freezer because I don’t know what to do with them. I read all these blogs that say that buying and preparing a whole chicken is very economical and frugal, but I think I’m doing it wrong. I feel like I have all these wasted bits and parts when I prepare a whole chicken. Maybe I’m just not that good at carving it and getting the most meat out of it. I also never do anything with the carcass, even though I know I should be using it to make homemade chicken broth. That will be my next culinary milestone – making my own broths. I’ll have to ask my mom how she makes her broths. She makes the best broths, super clear and very aromatic. I’ll keep you guys posted.

Anyway, so I had this whole chicken sitting in my freezer and I wanted to do something with it already to free up some freezer space. I was just going to make a basic roasted chicken, seasoned with lemon and rosemary, but then my sister shared a picture of a soy sauce chicken that she had made.

My sister’s soy sauce chicken

It looked so good, so I thought I’d give it a try. Now this recipe calls for a lot more effort than I usually put into a normal family dinner, so I wouldn’t make it on a regular basis. However, it would be a pretty impressive chicken to make for dinner parties!

There are a few key points to note about the ingredients. First of all, there are some pretty Asian ingredients in this recipe, so your best bet is to hit up your local Asian grocery store. (Ngoy Hoa, if you’re from Regina). Spend the money on these ingredients now because I guarantee you’ll be using them again if you continue to follow me on this blog. The Asian ingredients are star anise (a star shaped southeast Asian spice). Remember? We used it in the Vietnamese beef stew recipe.  The recipe also calls for light soy sauce and dark soy sauce. If you go to a Canadian grocery store, you’re not going to find different types of soy sauce (actually, Superstore might have light and dark soy sauces). Using the two different kinds of soy sauces will add depth of flavour to this chicken. The abundance of soy sauce in this recipe makes the chicken super salty. So for the chicken broth that is required, make sure you use no-salt or low-salt chicken broth. Otherwise, it will be way too salty.  Lastly, you’ll need some Chinese cooking wine. You can also find this at your local Asian food store.

Also, the green onion oil may seem like an optional addition but it is NOT optional. It is essential to the dish so don’t skip this step!

The layers of flavour in this dish is unreal. The salty, silky chicken, the pungent green onion oil, the steaming hot rice – it is so filling and comforting. The strong flavours of this dish would be best paired with a lighter red wine like a Zinfandel. However, I didn’t have any Zinfandel on hand but I had a bottle of Menage a Trois, which is a Zinfandel/Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend. It was an amazing pairing! This wine would also pair well with other strongly flavoured Asian meats like Chinese barbecue pork.

Soy Sauce Chicken

Print Recipe
Serves: 4-6 Cooking Time: 1.5-2 hours

Ingredients

  • FOR THE CHICKEN:
  • 1 small whole chicken, about 2-3 lbs
  • 2 stalks of green onion, diced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, sliced
  • 2 star anise
  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup no-salt or low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp chinese cooking wine
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • FOR THE GREEN ONION OIL
  • 2 cups finely diced green onions
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black better
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Instructions

1

MARINATING CHICKEN:

2

In a pot over medium heat, combine the green onions, ginger, star anise, both soy sauces, chicken stock, chinese cooking wine, brown sugar, oyster sauce, paprika and black pepper.

3

Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place the pot over ice to cool the sauce down to room temperature. Don't skip this step. If you pour hot sauce over raw chicken, you're going to end up cooking the chicken in random places and the uneven heat can cause the temperature of the chicken to rise to unsafe levels conducive to salmonella.

4

Place the chicken and the cooled soy sauce mixture into a large Ziplock freezer bag and coat the chicken all over with the sauce. Transfer to the fridge to marinate overnight.

5

PREPARING GREEN ONION OIL:

6

Place diced green onions, grated ginger, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

7

Heat canola oil in a pot over high heat until it starts to smoke slightly.

8

Pour the oil over the green onion mixture. It will sizzle and smoke so make sure your exhaust fan or air exchange is on!

9

Stir the mixture and then set aside and let it rest for 2 hours before using (I usually make this right before I put the chicken in the oven).

10

TO COOK THE CHICKEN:

11

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

12

Choose a pot that will fit the chicken neatly without too much extra space. I used my Le Creuset French Oven that I got for Christmas and it was the perfect size!

13

Remove the chicken from the Ziplock bag and then pour the marinade into the pot.

14

Bring the marinade to a simmer over medium heat, then place the chicken into the pot.

15

Turn the chicken a few times to coat it with the sauce, then put the pot into the oven uncovered.

16

Every 15 minutes or so, turn the chicken and baste it with the sauce evenly over every surface. (I did a poor job of this the first time I made it, so if you look at my chicken compared to my sister's in the pictures above, mine isn't as evenly darkened as hers).

17

The chicken should be perfectly done after 60-75 minutes.

18

Remove the chicken from the pot and let it rest while you prepare the sauce.

19

Strain the sauce from the pot into a small sauce pan. Add 2 tbsp of no-salt chicken stock (or water) to thin out the saltiness. Whisk and keep it warm over low heat.

20

To serve, carve the chicken into small pieces and place over jasmine rice. Drizzle some of the sauce over the chicken and rice, and add a spoonful of the green onion oil.

Featured/ Vietnamese Recipes

Mongolian Beef

Once in awhile I get a craving for “Westernized” Chinese food. You know what I mean? Like sweet and sour pork, ginger beef, chicken lettuce wraps, stuff that you would find on the menu at P.F. Chang’s. Speaking of P.F. Chang’s, what is all the hype about? I hear people rave about this place all the time, so my husband and I went there for dinner when we were in Vegas last summer. I do not see what the big deal is – the food was very generic and Westernized Chinese food (seriously, I can guarantee you that chicken lettuce wraps are not enjoyed in traditional Asian households anywhere!). If you want an elevated Asian food experience in Vegas, check out Tao in the Venetian or Koi in Planet Hollywood. Those are my two must-go Asian food places while in Vegas.

Anyways, I digress. As much as I rag on “non-authentic” Asian food, I do sometimes crave the strong comforting flavours that they provide. Like this Mongolian beef dish. It’s not Vietnamese, it’s not really authentic Chinese cuisine, and one could only guess that it’s not really Mongolian either, despite its name. Yet it has the familiar  and typical Asian flavourings of brown sugar, soy sauce, green onions and ginger that make it so comforting.

For the beef, I used a couple of top sirloin grilling steaks but you can probably use any cut of beef. Thinly slicing the beef against the grain, tossing it with cornstarch and doing a quick sear will make any cut of beef super tender.

The best part of this dish is that it takes minutes to make. There is no pre-marinading or extensive prep involved. If you have all the ingredients at hand, it takes 15 minutes to prepare!

Serve the beef over some hot jasmine rice for a filling and comforting meal! You can see in my pictures that I had paired it with a Riesling but I wasn’t too impressed with the pairing. I think Mongolian beef is one of those basic meals that is best paired with a cold light beer!

Mongolian Beef

Print Recipe
Serves: 2 Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • FOR THE BEEF:
  • 2 top sirloin grilling steaks (or any cut of beef), very thinly sliced against the grain
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 thai red chili pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced
  • 5 green onions, diced
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

Instructions

1

Toss the sliced beef in a large bowl with cornstarch and set aside.

2

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk together. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low while you prepare the beef.

3

Heat canola oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat. Add the thai red chili pepper and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the ginger begins to brown, about 2 minutes.

4

Add the garlic and sliced beef to the skillet, spreading the slices of beef in an even layer across the skillet. Sear the beef well, about 1 minute per side.

5

Pour the sauce from the saucepan into the skillet with the beef. Mix well so that the sauce coats all the beef. Let simmer for one minute.

6

Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle the green onions on top

7

Serve with jasmine rice and enjoy!