VIETNAMESE CHICKEN BOLOGNA – CHA LUA GA (GIO LUA GA)

chicken bologna - cha lua (gio) ga is ready to eat

Chicken bologna – cha lua (gio) ga is ready to eat

Cha lua (gio) ga after steaming

Chicken bologna – cha lua (gio) ga after steaming

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If you love pork bologna, you must love chicken bologna (cha lua ga or gio lua ga) as well.
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It is good news for someone who cannot eat pork because this chicken bologna is as good as the pork one. Many people think it is healthier.
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The best part for someone who lives in America is that chicken is cheap and can be found everywhere.
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In my recipes I prefer to use chicken thigh, the most flavorful part of the chicken. If you use chicken breast or a combination of chicken breast and thigh, it is best you add some oil to prevent dryness. I use 1 tablespoon of canola oil (considered healthy oil) to infuse shallot and onion to enhance flavors.
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The chicken meat is somewhat bland, moreover, my meat comes from my local ordinary supermarket, so I need a little help from sugar. I grind my own meat. You can instead buy ground meat. It is preferable to use white pepper to maintain a delicate appearance, while black pepper is fine if you do not serve them to Vietnamese diners.
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You can check pork bologna recipe by clicking here.
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Ingredients:
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1½ lb/700g chicken thigh, cleaned and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoon cornstarch (potato starch or tapioca starch)
¼ cup plus 1-2 tablespoons ice cold water
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 shallot, chopped
¼ medium onion, chopped
3 large banana leaves of about 8 inches
3 smaller banana leaves of about 6 inches
Twine for tying
Plastic wraps
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Instructions:
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Heat the pan or skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Pour in oil and wait until hot. Add shallot and cook for 1’ until fragrant, add onion and cook for 5’, making sure they do not get brown color. If it has color the final product does not look white, and that is the color you want.
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Grind the meat 2 times in batches, adding all ingredients, including shallot and onion mixture. Remove from the food processor and knead the meat for 5’. Place the paste in a plastic bag and keep in a freezer for at least 2 hours. The paste is now returned to the food processor and ground in batches for few more minutes, adding 1-2 tablespoons of ice cold water.
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Place the larger piece of banana leaf on the flat surface horizontally and the smaller one on top vertically. Put the paste across the top layer and in the center. Lift both ends of the leaves together (like you would when rolling rice rolls “banh tet” and make a grease and fold it into a cylinder. Cut off the extra leaves both side ends, leaving about 2 inches to make a neat square fold. Place the roll on top of a plastic wrap. Roll the plastic to make the very round and even roll. The plastic wrap does a good job here. Tie with twine or not, it is your choice. The twine does make it look like a Vietnamese roll, without distorting the shape. I used 2 pieces of plastic wrap to make sure no leak.
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Traditionally, the rolls were boiled in water. If you do so wrap the leaves and tie very tightly to avoid the water slipping through to ruin the rolls. I find steaming (not in direct water) prevents this problem.
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Bring a steamer to a rolling boil. Place the rolls in the steamer. The steam time varies depending on how thick the roll is. I steamed this 1½ lb roll for 45’.
Grind the meat into paste
Grind chicken thigh into smooth paste
The paste goes to freezer
Place the paste in a plastic bag to go into the freezer
Lay out banana leaves
Place small banana leave on top the larger one
Place the paste on top of the leaves
Place the paste in the center
Trim both ends of banana leaves
Cut off extra leaves from both ends
Chicken bologna - cha lua (gio) ga is wrapped banana leaves

Chicken bologna – cha lua (gio) ga is wrapped banana leaves

Chicken bologna - cha lua (gio) ga is wrapped in plastic wrap

Alternately, Chicken bologna – cha lua (gio) ga is wrapped in plastic wrap

 

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FOOD BLOGGING FOR DUMMIES REVIEW

FOOD BLOGGING FOR DUMMIES REVIEW
Since the day I started my blog I have been reading many books about blogging. I brought me as down and humble as I could to be a Dummy. I started reading and did not finish “Blogging All-in-One for Dummies”, “Wordpress for Dummies” and so on.
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The reason is I do not get much help from them. My blog still looks mediocre. I can say I am frustrated. I almost give up and began the tendency to get professional help. I face another dilemma: now when I find someone to help me, what I will tell him/her? How would I like my blog to be? I feel like I need to go back to the ground zero although all the posts I did are valuable and worthy.
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One day I was passing by the shelves of a book store and I noticed a new blogging book: “Food blogging for Dummies”. I kept on going. Then another day I decided to check this book out. The first thing that stunned me was the author: Kelly Senyei, to whom I had sent my recipe and pictures: “Vietnamese chicken cabbage salad” few days earlier as I wanted her to publish my recipe in the Gourmet magazine, where she is the editor.
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From her book I went to her blog “Justataste’ and it has very good illustrations. So I got lessons from the book and then I got to see the examples through the blog. While I am reading her book and her blog I stopped blogging (temporary) as I realized I was doing everything wrong.
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Kelly posted a very nice picture of the finished dish first, followed by the introduction, the process pictures and finally the recipes. On the other hand, I always wrote the introduction first, followed by the recipe, the process pictures, and then the finished dish.
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She dedicated an entire chapter to food photography. I need to invest my time now more for the pictures, at least to set up a photography “studio” by her advice.
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After I read this in the book: “Many blogger readers often head straight for the “About Me” page the first time they visit your blog, in order to get a taste of the person creating the content, which means the page should be a candid, comprehensive, intrigued, and entertaining read for visitors.
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My blog lacks a Home page, “About Me” page and a Contact page. I wrote another “About Me” page as I had a post “About Me” but it was too long.
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I find Kelly’s style and language of writing very easy to understand. It is the language of food while she tries to explain technical and technological (tough) materials.
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Now, for the first time I see the light at the end of my tunnel. Her book is helpful to me. If you intend or have a food blog I strongly recommend this book to you. It is also available in e-book now. So check it out and let me know what you think.
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Happy blogging!
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MasterChef Season 3 – Top Three, 2012

MasterChef Season 3 – Top Three, 2012
I’ve just watched last night’s episode, in which the top three contestants remained: Becky, Christine and Josh.
Becky came out the third in the last mystery box challenge. It could have been a surprise for some, even for Gordon Ramsay, because she was five times at the top spot. After seeing her fillet the fish poorly, the judges were concerned for her success. She was also concerned, and more than that she blamed herself of being raised in an average American family. What average American ever butchers and fillets a live and whole fish? It did not help even with a dead whole fish.
Josh did surprise me with his braised curried chicken. So did Christine with color-perfect seared scallops. It is difficult for many people, even not blind, to cook perfectly seasoned Asian noodles and scallops.
It really heightened the drama to watch them cook to fight for their spot in the finale.
When Josh brought his 3 balls with 3 sauces, Judge Joe said: “you chose the leg of lamb and you brought me this.” Luckily, his food was delicious enough to gain him a first spot. To me, it was a waste of ingredients to cook just that when you can obtain expensive ingredients in your hands.
Christine’s southern style chicken was remarkable enough to beat Becky’s frog legs. It was bad luck for Becky because she never ate and cooked them before. In some way, and some people feel they can be on the same weight. But the fatal factor here was Becky’s soggy and greasy potato and not cohesive dish. She hoped Christine’s too-creamy kale could be on the same scale. But the Judges have spoken and the winner was Christine.
Okay, Becky, not bad with the offer from Gordon Ramsay; she can choose to cook at his French, British or other restaurant in the world.
One more week and we will have our third Master Chef. It wouldn’t make any different to me if it was not Christine, the blind cook in the finale.
Did I mention to you she was a Vietnamese? When I watched the few first episodes and our Vietnamese media was bragging about her, I fell against her. In my mind, the casting wasted one spot; what can a blind chef do? Can she cook more than basic things? Let alone compete against many other contestants. I thought they should have picked someone like me in her spot. But the more I watched her cook the more she surprised me. I grew from surprised to adoration and pride. Now I admire her spirit and her talent. She sends a very strong message to people: you can do well if you put your heart into it, no matter your circumstances.
Good luck, Christine! Go get it. You can make history.
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My video: How to make Vietnamese summer rolls – goi cuon

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ANNATTO OIL – DAU MAU HAT DIEU DO

ANNATTO OILDAU MAU HAT DIEU DO

Vietnamese people use a lot of annatto oil in cooking. It adds a reddish attractive finish and aroma. The Hue beef and pork noodles (bun bo Hue) soup does not look good without a dash of annatto oil, or to enhance the red color of shrimp a dash of annatto oil is added.
My parents used to have one annatto tree in the backyard. The tree was not so big but it bore a lot of fruit, which opened to show their inside full of seeds. We harvested this fruit and dried the seeds. Once dry, the seeds can be stored for a long time. We normally use them to make annatto oil. In the market, people sell them in whole seeds and also in powder.
Ingredients:
2 teaspoon annatto seeds
2 tablespoon oil
Instructions:
To make annatto oil, combine 2 teaspoons of seeds and 2 tablespoons of oil in a pot or skillet. Place the pot over low heat. Cook until the red color bleaches out and releases aroma. Remove from heat as soon as the seeds start popping. If you continue cooking the red color becomes orange. People often strain the seeds out but I leave them in the oil. I feel doing it that way the maximum red color is achieved. Just remember to strain out the seeds when using the oil.

 

 

annatto oil

annatto oil

 

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FRESH SQUEEZED ORANGE JUICE – NUOC CAM VANG

 

FRESH SQUEEZED ORANGE JUICENUOC CAM VANG
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One of my favorite drinks is fresh squeezed orange juice. It is so refreshing and a lot better than the stuff in the bottles. Just a little work and you get yourself a healthy homemade drink. It can satisfy the vitamin C that the doctor ordered. If the orange is not sweet enough, as it always isn’t with natural citrus fruits, simply add some simple syrup.
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Ingredients:
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2-3 oranges, squeezed
1 cup simple syrup, recipe follows
Cubed ice
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Instructions:
To make simple syrup: bring a cup of sugar and a cup of water in a pot to a boil and simmer until the mixture slighly thickens. Let cool and store when ready to use.
Mix orange juice and maple syrup to your liking. Add more simple syrup if you like it sweeter. Fill the glass with cubed ice. Pour the orange mixture over ice. Garnish with mint leaves or orange wedge and enjoy!
zest and juice the orange

zest and juice the orange

fresh squeezed orang juice

fresh squeezed orang juice

 

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CREAM PUFF (CHOUX CREAM PASTRY) – BANHXU KEM

CREAM PUFF (CHOUX CREAM PASTRY) – BANHXU KEM
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Did I tell you my parents were farmers but they were all about education? They raised 9 of us and sent everyone to school.
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One summer my parents sent me to Saigon to get tutoring to be ahead of the game in preparing knowledge for the upcoming school year. My school was a suburb school. I hoped I got all the materials I needed to keep my position as a top ten student. I was boarding in my mother’s uncle’s house. My great uncle was an intelligent man who worked for a foreign company at that time. It was the first chance for me to get to know Western cuisine. In his house I first watched and tasted this desert: cream puff or choux cream pastry.
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The ingredients for making choux pastry are very simple: butter, water, and eggs. It is surprising that there is no raising agent but the pastry is puffing as a result of technique. There was a time when I made this choux pastry but it did not bind into dough. To my experience, when the butter and water come to a boil, remove from heat and dump in all the flour at once, then stir constantly and the dough is formed. The next question is how many eggs one needs to incorporate. That is where practice comes in. You need to recognize the dough consistency to determine adding eggs. In short, you add the eggs until the dough can hold and keeps smooth with a little thick consistency, but it can still fall back slowly when lifted.
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When baked, the choux pastry provides a hollow center which is perfectly ready to be filled with cream or any filling you like. In this recipe I use a mixture of pastry cream and baked banana.
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They are a perfect ending of any meal or a sweet snack when the sweet tooth strikes.
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Ingredients:
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6 tablespoon unsalted butter (you can use 8 tablespoons but 6 works so I cut calorie there)
1 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
3-4 large eggs
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Instructions:
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Pre-heat the oven to 425oF.
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Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a pot. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat. Add flour all at once. Stir constantly until it forms dough. Put the pot back on the stove, stirring for about 2’ so that some moisture evaporated. Remove from heat, let cool but still warm. Beat in 2 ½ eggs, one at a time so that the dough incorporates before adding new one. You can use the help of a mixer or hand mixer or just by hand. Just be careful when using hand mixer. Watch out to not over work the hand mixer. The best dough is glossy and a little thick but it can still fall back slowly when lifted. You need to have your judgment there: you can use 3 or 4 eggs, depending on your dough. My eggs are extra large so I used only 2 ½ eggs, the remaining half I used to brush the dough before baking.
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Use a pastry bag or zip log bag with the round or star tip, pipe the dough into rounds or balls of about 1½-2 inches (or just use a spoon to scoop the dough). With this recipe I have 8 2-inch choux and 14 1½-inch choux. Brush with the egg.
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Bake in 425oF pre-heated oven for 15’. Lower the oven to 375oF and bake for 10-15’ more. Turn off the oven, leaving the choux in there for 5’.
Remove from the oven, cool on the racks.
Use the round tip and piping bag, filled with the filling. Make a hole at the bottom with the tip and fill the choux with the filling.
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Bake banana and pastry cream filling:
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For baked bananas:
3 ripe bananas, peeled
2 tablespoon unsalted butter.
¾ cup light brown sugar
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Butter a pie pan and sprinkle with brown sugar. Lay bananas on top. Sprinkle more sugar and butter. Bake in the oven of 450oF for 10-15’. Remove from the oven and let cool.
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For pastry cream:
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2 cup whole milk
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pieces cinamon barks
1 tablespoon orange zest
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Beat egg yolks with sugar, vanilla extract, adding cornstarch. Bring milk with vanilla extract, cinamon and orange zest to a gentle boil. Remove cinamon. Pour some of the hot milk to the egg mixture to temper. To add some more until the mixture becomes liquid and warm. Pour all the egg mixture back to the pot. Stir and cook until thicken. Remove from heat and let cool.
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Place baked bananas and pastry cream in a food processor or blender, process until smooth. The mixture is ready to use. Chill before use.
prepare to bake bananas

prepare to bake bananas

baked bananas look good and taste great

baked bananas look good and taste great

egg yolks and sugar

egg yolks and sugar

beat eggs and sugar and cornstarch

beat eggs and sugar and cornstarch

cook milk with spices

cook milk with spices

pastry cream is ready

pastry cream is ready

puree the filling

puree the filling

choux pastry is cooling

choux pastry is cooling

beat eggs into choux pastry

beat eggs into choux pastry

pipe the dough into rounds

pipe the dough into rounds

spoon the dough into balls

spoon the dough into balls

choux was baked

choux was baked

 

fill the piping bag with baked banana and pastry cream

fill the piping bag with baked banana and pastry cream

choux was filled and ready for the fridge

choux was filled and ready for the fridge

 

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SCALLOPED POTATO – KHOAI TAY BAO MONG NUONG TRONG LO

SCALLOPED POTATO KHOAI TAY BAO MONG NUONG TRONG LO
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There is some food that is simple but just delicious. Scalloped potato is one. My technique is cooking it on the stove for half of the time, the remaining time in the oven for browning. It is that simple.
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Ingredients:
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4 cup potato (about 6-8 white potato), peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoon AP (all purpose) flour
1teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning salt
1 teaspoon Provencal herb
½ cup whole milk
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Instructions:
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Heat a non-stick oven proof skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add butter and wait until hot. Add potato slices decoratively in a single layer. Sprinkle half of garlic powder, lemon pepper, Provencal herb and flour. Add another layer of potato and all spices and herbs and flour. Add the milk and cook, covered on the stove for 20’.
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Preheat the oven to 350oF.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 20’ more until bubbles and brown.
Remove from the oven and place a plate larger than the skillet on top. With the mittens to protect your hands, convert the potato onto the plate and serve.
my husband tried to decorate the plate of scalloped potatoes

my husband tried to decorate the plate of scalloped potatoes

see little Thai basil on top of scalloped potatoes. It was fun!

see little Thai basil on top of scalloped potatoes. It was fun!

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NO-KNEAD OLIVE AND PARMESAN BREAD – BANH MI OLIU

NO-KNEAD OLIVE AND PARMESAN BREADBANH MI OLIU
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Since the French introduced bread to Vietnam during the colonial period, the local people embraced it. The bread becomes another diet.
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There are large and small bakeries all over the country, making all kinds of bread but mostly the bread is airy and soft and fluffy inside and crusty outside. The abundance made it easy to always obtain the freshest made bread. Carrying that taste with me when I resettled in America, I was disappointed with many kinds of bread found here. The French or Italian baguettes pass the approval for the crust, but the inside is too dense. The artisan bread also received the approval for the crust, but the inside is too doughy. Most of the time I only can get a cool bread.
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Over the years I tried to make bread myself and failed. I always surrendered because of the dense texture, sometimes it was just like bricks. I did not have a mixer at that time. It was so hard for me to knead the dough. Poor my husband and my son! They ate my horrible bread many times.
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I read a lot of books, like “Amy’s Bread” by Amy Scherber, and the “Bread Bible” by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Nothing worked. One day when checking some books I ran across the book: “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The book changed my life, at least my bread life. Later I read the New York Times ‘s article, written by Mark Bittman titled “Recipe: No-Knead Bread, adapted from Jim Lahey,Sullivan Street Bakery. I experimented with recipes of the book and the article, and finally got the tools I need. Now my husband says my bread is artisan quality. Now I see that it is truly easy. Once you master the technique, it will not be too long before you too will adventurously try more creations.
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Below is one: the olive and parmesan bread. My husband is a health-conscious man, so I tried to add whole wheat flour in the recipe. The cheese and olive in brine add the saltiness so I do not put additional salt. My husband is happy about that. The finished bread is airy and soft and flavorful. The crust is crispy and brown. My baking time is significantly reduced as I used a convection oven. Even with a normal oven, I believe the first 20’ is that all the bread needs to rise because the Dutch oven is pre-heated hot enough.
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Ingredients:
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1 cup bread flour
1 cup AP flour
1 cup wheat flour
¾ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1¾ cup warm water of 100oF
2 cup olive, halved
¼ cup grated parmesan
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Instructions:
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Preheat a Dutch oven with lid in the oven of 450oF.
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Heat 1 cup of water with honey to 100oF, sprinkle the yeast over and stir. It will be foamy in about 5’.
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In a large bowl, mix all flours, olive and cheese. Add the yeast mixture, stir to combine, adding more ¾ cup lukewarm water (100oF). Cover with plastic wrap, let rise to double in size for 12-18 hours.
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Turn the dough out on a floured Silpat, fold in the dough to make a ball. Put the ball seams side down on the floured Silpat for the second rise for 1-2 hours.
Bring all the seams toward the center. This will become the bottom of the bread when converted into the Dutch oven.
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Drop the dough into the Dutch oven. The Silpat helps to lift and drop the dough easier. Cover and bake for 20’. Uncover and bake for 20’ more until brown crispy and crusty.
start the yeast mixture for olive bread

start the yeast mixture for olive bread

olive and parmesan cheese

olive and parmesan cheese

 

mix dry ingredients for olive bread

mix dry ingredients for olive bread

olive bread is risen after 12-18 hours

olive bread is risen after 12-18 hours

prepare flour surface on a Silpat

prepare flour surface on a Silpat

shape olive bread for the 2nd rise

shape olive bread for the 2nd rise

olive bread is rising under the cloth for 2 more hours

olive bread is rising under the cloth for 2 more hours

shape olive bread before converting it into the Dutch oven

shape olive bread before converting it into the Dutch oven

olive bread is baking in the Dutch oven

olive bread is baking in the Dutch oven

the olive bread is done baking

the olive bread is done baking

my husband enjoys a slice of olive bread

my husband enjoys a slice of olive bread

 

 

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VIETNAMESE MEATBALLS WITH TOMATO SAUCE – THIT HEO XIU-MAI

VIETNAMESE MEATBALLS WITH TOMATO SAUCETHIT HEO XIU-MAI
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This dish definitely originated from China, at least the name: shao mai or shumai, siumai – a pork dumpling is a type of Chinese dumplings served in dim sum. From all kinds of Chinese dumplings, the closest one is Cantonese, which is made from pork or shrimp, mushroom, ginger, green onion, shao xing wine, soy sauce wrapped around by thin dough. When it came to Vietnam, the dough was left out and seasonings were adapted to Vietnamese taste. The Vietnamese xiu mai is first steamed, then cooked in tomato sauce, almost like Italian sauce, only different taste.
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I like to grind the meat myself to reach the coarse consistency, just like that of a burger. Chinese cooks like to chop the meat by hand using 2 cleavers. The finished meatballs need to be soft so that they can be broken down when stuffing the bread.
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Ingredients:
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For the meatballs:
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1lb pork Boston butt, ground
1 small onion, chopped
¼ jicama root, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
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For the sauce:
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1 tablespoon oil
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock (or pork or vegetable stock)
3 cloves garlic
1 slice ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
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Instructions:
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Combine all ingredients for the meatballs and form into 3-inch balls (the size is totally your choice. I like them big so that I can eat just one). Set them on a steamer. I steamed them all at once, except 2 individual balls in a ramekin for me and my son. Steam for about 15’. The steam is just for keeping the meatball shape. They continue to cook more in the tomato sauce.
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In the meantime, to make the tomato sauce, heat a pan over medium high heat until hot but not smoking, add oil and garlic, stir for 30”, add ginger, stir for 30”, add carrot and tomato and cook for 5’ until tender. Add all seasonings. Add tomato sauce and stock. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 5’. Add the meatballs and simmer until the sauce becomes thicker, about 15’ more.
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Serve the meatballs with bread and carrot and radish pickles, cucumber slices and cilantro. At least it was for me, you see what for my son: meatball with sunny side up eggs and cha siu pork and bread. ENJOY!
meat for meatballs Xiu mai

meat for meatballs Xiu mai

Ingredients for meatballs Xiu mai

Ingredients for meatballs Xiu mai

 

grind pork meat for meatballs Xiu mai into a coarse consistency

grind pork meat for meatballs Xiu mai into a coarse consistency

form meatballs Xiu mai

form meatballs Xiu mai

steam meatballs Xiu mai individually in ramekin

steam meatballs Xiu mai individually in ramekin

Ingredients for meatballs Xiu mai sauce

Ingredients for meatballs Xiu mai sauce

vegetable stock

vegetable stock

cook aromatic ingredients and carrot and tomatoes

cook aromatic ingredients and carrot and tomatoes

cook steamed meatballs Xiu mai in the sauce

cook steamed meatballs Xiu mai in the sauce

spoon the sauce over the meatball Xiu mai for serving

spoon the sauce over the meatball Xiu mai for serving

stuff meatball Xiu mai into bread with vegetable pickles

stuff meatball Xiu mai into bread with vegetable pickles

my son's dinner with meatball Xiu mai and more

my son’s dinner with meatball Xiu mai and more

 

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