Friday, May 22, 2015

Homemade Rice Noodles

Am curious by nature.  The process, the how and why, intrigue me.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that I was a scientist in my earlier life (my first few jobs out of college entailed working with mice and rats in a laboratory; I quickly learned that such work was not my calling).  My dad is a scientist, so perhaps I inherited my scientific curiosity from him.

I have this fascination about seeing the [cooking] process from start to finish.  Figuring out what works and, sometimes, figuring out what doesn't -- and that's all part of the process, albeit frustrating at times.

Of course, it would be much easier to buy rice noodles, but what fun is that?  Besides, doesn't make for an interesting post.  Now that I think about it, not sure I've ever seen fresh rice noodles, just the dried ones.

Making rice noodles is a pretty straightforward [and interesting] process.  After several attempts, I think I got most of the kinks worked out.  The most difficult part was getting all the noodles the same thickness.  That is, ensuring that the pan with the batter in it is level in the steamer such that the noodles are the same thickness from one side to the other.

Ingredients needed are also straightforward -- rice flour, tapioca flour, water, and salt.  The tapioca flour is what gives the noodles their chewiness.  Just whisk the ingredients together, ladle into a lightly greased baking pan, and then steam for 3 minutes.  Unmold, and voila, rice noodles.

I love the noodles' chewy texture.

The batter is a very thin, pourable consistency...

Ladle enough batter to just cover the surface (in this case, I've used an everyday baking pan).  And, make sure you lightly oil the bottom of the baking pan so the noodles don't stick.

Created a steamer with a wok (filled with water) and bamboo steamer baskets.  I steamed the noodles for 3 minutes over medium heat.  You know they noodles are done when they take on a matte finish...

Let the noodles cool and unmold...I ran a small, offset spatula around the edge of the pan.  Once you are able to lift one corner, the noodles just peels right off.

The noodles are really pliable.  Pretty cool, right??

Lightly brush the top of each noodle to prevent sticking.  Thereafter, you can stack the noodles on top of one other to make cutting them easier.  Slice to desired thickness...

Or, you can roll them up individually and slice them...

The noodles are best enjoyed the day of.

Here are a few ideas for the noodles...

Sauteed some green garlic and scallions.  Sprinkled the mixture on the noodle sheet (before they were cut) and then rolled it up.  Then, sliced about an inch or so thick and drizzled with a little soy-sesame sauce, topped with toasted sesame seeds.

I made this rice noodle stir-fry a while back.  Unfortunately, didn't write down a recipe, just kind of winged it.  It had oyster mushrooms, Chinese broccoli, red chile, egg, Vietnamese coriander (aka Rau Răm), basil (or Thai basil), ramps or green garlic, tamari, and sesame oil (that's about all I can recall)...will recreate it soon.

The green-purplish leaves are Vietnamese coriander (aka Rau Răm).  Vietnamese coriander has an unusual and interesting flavor (a bit minty and menthol-y).  

Homemade Rice Noodles
Makes about 1 1/4 pounds of noodles 
1 1/2 cups rice flour
3/4 cups tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water, pour a little in at a time and whisk until all water is incorporated
oil (neutral) for brushing

Stove top steamer (used a wok with some bamboo steamer baskets)
Baking pan (used a 9"-round baking pan)
a small off-set spatula

Combine the rice flour, tapioca flour, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Slowly add the water a little at a time, whisking well to combine (adding the water slowly in stages helps the flours to fully absorb the water).  The batter should be a thin, pourable consistency.

Set up a stove top steamer.  Lightly brush the bottom of a baking pan.  Ladle the batter into a baking pan (as a guide, I used about 1/3 cup of batter for a 9"-round baking pan).  Spread the batter around by rotating the pan so that you have a thin layer that completely covers the bottom of the pan.

Place the baking pan in the steamer.  Steam for 3 minutes.  Remove from the steamer and set aside until cool enough to handle.  Run a small, off set spatula along the edges of the noodle.  Wiggle the spatula under the noodle to release it from the pan.  Then, with your fingers, gently lift and release the noodle from the pan in one piece.

Repeat with the remaining batter.  Make sure to whisk the batter between each noodle.  Make sure to lightly grease the pan before pouring the batter into the pan.  And, make sure to refill your steamer with water as needed.

You can lightly brush the noodles and stack them on top of each other.  Slice to desired thickness. Best enjoyed the day of.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chinese-Style Spring Roast Chicken

There was a time when I didn't think I liked chicken.  But what I really didn't like was dry, boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  A whole roast chicken is a completely different story.  A whole roast chicken is divine.

Today, I tried out a new preparation for whole roast chicken.  And I have to say, it was freakin' delicious.  The 5-spice-soy-sesame-honey marinade, yum!  The dark, crispy skin, yum!  The juicy, succulent (super moist) meaty Belle Rouge chicken from Violet Hill Farm, yum, yum, yum!

Words from the farmers [Violet Hill Farm]: 'Why Belle Rouge?  Slower growth, the ability to forage seasonally, lots of space and a diet high in flax and alfalfa (and a happy chicken life) make these birds delicious.  The best chicken you've ever tasted... don't believe us?' ...

I'm a believer! 

It was so good, I couldn't stop eating, even though my belly was sufficiently stuffed and happy.  I couldn't seem to put my fork down.  One more bite.  No, just one more bite...

Am a recipe collector.  I have several notebooks filled with handwritten recipes and notes and sketches I've jotted down.  Then there are the recipes pinned on my Pinterest page, files saved on the computer with more recipes, binders full of recipes, a 100+ cookbook collection (and growing; I just ordered two more, this one and this one).  With so many recipes in so many places, it's hard to keep track of them all.  Many I've long forgotten about, some I have all the best intention of getting around to, and some sounded like a good idea at the time, but no longer pique my interest.

However, an overabundance of recipes never seems to deter me from seeking out more.  Recently stumbled across this recipe to add to my collection -- A Chinese Style Roast Chicken (from Rasa Malaysia).

Bought a small, three-pound chicken and was excited to give it a go.  So I gathered the ingredients for the marinade (most of which I already had at home, bonus), whisked them together, and marinated the chicken overnight.  Seemed straight forward enough.  The thing is...

I neglected to read the rest of the recipe closely need to air-dry the chicken for 3+ hours (Rasa Malaysia says at room temperature, but I opted for uncovered in the fridge) to help dry out the skin.

Why even bother air-drying a chicken?  The dryer the skin when it goes in the oven, the crispier the skin (and who doesn't like crispy skin?).  Patting your bird with paper towels will remove a bit of moisture.  But to get the skin really dry, you can air dry for several hours.

On a side note, I've never bought a chicken that still had the feet (and nails) attached.  The chicken feet and neck are definitely going to make a nice stock.

Marinate the chicken overnight.

The next day, scald the chicken with boiling water to remove the marinade.  Pat dry and then air-dry for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, coat the chicken with a mixture of oil and honey, and then let it air-dry for three hours. 

And then roast.  The result...DELICIOUS!!

Poured the drippings from the roasting pan over the rice (yum).

Are all of the above steps absolutely necessary??  I'm not entirely sure, but the end result was spot on. If it ain't broke...