I love to eat and I love to cook. A favorite hobby of mine is trying to recreate something delicious I've had - and trying, and trying - and enjoying the unique results. I also enjoy experimenting with food and sometimes accidentally end up making something really delicious...
Have you had one of those fresh rolls often found in Vietnamese restaurants? Do you ever wish you could just dive into a whole pile of them and scarf them down until you pass out from pure bliss? I recently made them and found out what makes them so refreshingly delicious. Ready for this? It’s mint! Amazing.
10 large rice wrappers
2 ounces (1 bundle) of rice vermicelli
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro (standard grocery store sized bunch, exact amount doesn’t matter)
1/2 bunch of fresh mint (standard grocery store sized bunch, exact amount doesn’t matter)
1/2 bunch of Thai basil (standard grocery store sized bunch, exact amount doesn’t matter)
1 cucumber, julienned
1 carrot, julienned (or if you’re lazy like me, buy a bag of shredded carrots)
30 medium shrimp (3 per wrap) – if vegetarian, replace with 2 belle peppers, julienned.
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbs rice vinegar
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs hoisin sauce
1 tbs sugar
1/2 cup water
A shallow pan or plate slightly larger than the rice wrappers filled with water (to dip wrappers in) *I had a special dipping device I bought from the Vietnamese grocery, but a pan or plate will do just fine*
Cutting board and knife
A cutting board or counter that is larger than the rice wrapper
A pot to boil shrimp in
Boil water in a pot. When the water is at a hard boil, drop in your shrimp. Boil about 2 minutes for thawed shrimp and 5-6 for frozen.
Remove shrimp from pot and set aside to cool.
Drop rice noodles in boiling water for about 2 minutes, when soft, remove and rinse with cold water. I just use the same pot and water I cooked the shrimp in, but you can use a new pot if you don’t want slightly shrimpy noodles.
Prepare all your raw ingredients. Peel and julienne a cucumber and carrot (and 2 bell peppers if using), coarsely chop cilantro, mint, and basil.
Whisk all the sauce ingredients together and put aside.
Dip rice paper in water for a few seconds. Paper should still be very slightly stiff.
Place paper on your cutting board. Place 3 shrimp in the middle of the paper.
Put raw ingredients as you like, taking care not to overload the paper.
Wrap the sides of the paper over the fillings and roll from the bottom (like a burrito).
Store on a plate seam side down (shrimp side up) until ready to eat. As you can see from my photos, some of them got eaten in the process!
I’ve been taking inspiration from Julia Child’s coq au vin for ages – although I never quite follow the recipe. I’m always missing an ingredient, trying to save some time, so on and so forth. But, it still always turns out really well. Here is my homey take on a legend.
1/2 lb bacon (about 8 slices), cut up into small pieces (if you do not wish to use bacon, just substitute about 2-3 tbs butter)
2 tbs butter as needed
3-4 lbs dark meat chicken (I use a combination of bone in thighs and drumsticks)
1/4 cup brandy for flaming (optional)
2 medium onions (or 1lb peeled pearl onions) cut into 1 inch pieces
3-4 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces (optional)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups red wine
1/2 tsp dried or fresh thyme (1/4 tsp if powdered)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 tbs tomato paste
1 lb mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper
TO SERVE: This is delicious served over mashed potatoes or with baguettes. I use mashed potato flakes for the potatoes and it’s quick and yummy.
6-7 qt dutch oven or large pot WITH TIGHT FITTING LID (lid is very important)
cutting board and knife
large mixing bowls
long reach lighter
Render the fat out of the bacon. If you are not using bacon, substitute 2-3 tbs butter until the bottom of the pan is fully covered. Once the bacon is browned, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and leave the drippings in the pan.
If there is not enough oil in the pan, add butter. Using tongs, lay the chicken skin side down. Lightly salt and pepper, and sprinkle a little thyme, some garlic powder. Flip after about 2 minutes. The skin should be golden brown. Be careful when flipping not to strip the skin off the chicken.
Do the same on the other side. Salt, pepper, a little thyme, some garlic powder.
You may need to work in batches, to avoid overcrowding.
When all the chicken is golden, you are ready for your next step.
Get your LID ready!
Optional step – Pour the brandy into the pot. Using a long reach lighter, light the chicken on fire. Let flame for a minute or 2.
To put out the flames, COVER the pan with the LID.
Give it a minute or two to make sure the flame is out. Whisk together the flour, chicken stock, wine, and tomato paste.
Uncover the pot, and add cooked bacon, onions, carrots, the flour mixture, and a bay leaf. Mix gently.
Cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Remove the chicken pieces if they are done (juices run clear).
The sauce should be thick enough to viscously coat a spoon. Boil down to thicken or add water as necessary.
Add mushrooms to the sauce and cook on medium for another 10 minutes.
I’m pretty sure they’re rib tips anyway. You know the cut with the cartilage / soft bones that you can eat? Love it in soup (check out my recipe https://maddywoods.com/2020/10/20/recipe-pork-rib-vegetable-soup/), grilled in the pan, whatever. So versatile and rich in flavor. If you can’t get Chinese cauliflower, regular cauliflower works well too! Oh right. If you’re cooking them both at the same time, start the cauliflower first. Even if it finishes first, it retains the heat really well because of its water content, whereas the meat will cool down fast. The cauliflower will take around 15-20 minutes and the meat will take 10. I listed the pork first because it’s the main dish.
WARNING: The pork pan will be hard to clean due to the sugar content of the marinade. I had to soak it and use a wooden spatula for scraping.
2 lbs pork rib tips
4 tbs low sodium soy sauce
2 tbs honey
3 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs onion powder
2 tbs canola oil
Large Chinese cauliflower
2 tbs canola oil
3 tbs fish sauce
1/2 – 1 cup water
3 stalks green onion (white and green parts separated)
1 tsp ginger paste (or 1/2 inch ginger, sliced in half)
1 tsp garlic paste (or 1 clove garlic)
2-3 Serrano peppers (optional)
10″ cast iron pan
Gallon freezer bag OR bowl for marinating
Spoon for mixing
Large wok or all purpose pan
Cutting board and knife
Mix all ingredients in a bag or a bowl and marinade between 4 and 24 hours. Turn / mix the pork halfway through the marinating process. If you don’t have time to marinade, you can go ahead and cook it right away, it will still be good, just not AS good.
Heat pan on medium until touching the meat to it creates a sizzling noise.
Place all the pork in the pan. Cover with a lid.
5 minutes covered, flip, 5 more minutes covered. DONE.
Garnish with the green parts of the green onion if desired.
Slice and dice the green onion (separating the green parts and the white parts), Serrano peppers, and cauliflower. If using fresh ginger and garlic, cut a 1/2 inch piece of ginger in half and cut the garlic clove in half as well.
Combine canola oil, Serrano peppers, white parts of green onion in pan. If using fresh ginger and garlic, add them now. If using paste, wait until the oil is sizzling and fragrant and stir it in. There may be some splattering. But, if you add the paste too early, it will burn in the time it takes the other ingredients to flavor the oil.
Add the cauliflower, fish sauce, and 1/2 cup water. Cover with lid.
Stir occasionally, and then cover when not stirring. If pan becomes dry, add more water.
Cook to desired texture, for me around 15 minutes after adding the cauliflower to the oil.
This is my method for poaching an egg. I do them one at a time using the vortex method, so I advise doing 2 at a time and then to start eating them before they cold! If you want to make multiple eggs at once, use the same method but without making the vortex in the middle. The eggs won’t be as pretty, but they’ll still be yummy!
Eggs (I used 4)
1 tbs vinegar
Fine mesh sieve
Ramekin or small bowl
Bring the pot of water to the boil, add 1 tbs vinegar.
Crack an egg into a fine mesh sieve, and let the loose white drip through. Eggs have a yolk, a firm white, and a loose white. The loose white will be very watery, and go through the mesh pretty quickly.
Pour the egg into a ramekin or small bowl.
Using the spoon, stir in a circle in the pot and swirl the water into a vortex.
Gently pour the egg into the center.
If you are making multiple eggs at once, just put them in apart one at a time. They won’t be as pretty but at least they’ll all stay warm.
After 4 minutes, remove the egg(s) with a slotted spoon and enjoy!
I love risotto. It’s thick, creamy, and luxurious. It goes well with any number of foods. Due to the labor intensive nature of it, I make it only very occasionally and like to pair it with something special.
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tbs butter
2-3 tbs olive oil
4-6 cups stock (I prefer chicken)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
5qt+ stock pot
Spatula for stirring
Ladle and bowl for stock
Board and knife
Dice onions and put aside. Dice garlic.
Melt butter in the pot. Add the onions and when they are soft, add the garlic.
Stir until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
Add rice and olive oil and make sure each grain is coated.
Add the wine and stir until absorbed.
Add stock, just enough to cover the rice by 1/4 inch, and stir until absorbed.
Repeat this process until the rice is tender and a pleasing texture. You may use more or less stock depending on this.
Stir in the parmesan cheese, let cool a little and serve.
I spent almost my entire life in the United States, so while I like Chinese food, I’m not particularly experienced with making it. After I developed an interest in cooking, I regretted not having taken advantage of my time at home. The following is a Chinese INSPIRED soup that I adapted from several other recipes (and what was hanging around in my kitchen). It’s good!
2 lb pork rib tips (I used a lot of meat in this, 1 lb will suffice)
2 very large or 3 medium carrots
1 medium onion
10 shiitake mushrooms
1 can sweet corn
3 cloves garlic (I used tubed)
1 inch ginger (I used tubed)
2 tbs canola oil (any neutral oil will do)
Salt to taste
Chinese vermicelli, if using
5.5 qt+ pot
Knife and board
Bowls and plates
Chop up the carrots (peel first) and onions into 1/2 inch pieces.
Peel the ginger with a spoon and slice into 4 large pieces. Dice the ginger.
Put dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. After 2-3 minutes, drain.
If using fresh ginger, add the ginger pieces to the hot oil until lightly browned, and then discard.
Sauté the onions in the oil until soft.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
If using tube ginger and garlic like I am, ignore #3 and #5. Add about 1 tbs of each to the onions once they are translucent.
Once it sizzles, quickly add in all the pork and stir to brown. You will not even come close to browning all the pieces, the goal is to get SOME caramelization on the meat.
Once you get bored of browning the meat, add the mushrooms, carrots, and about 7-8 cups of water to the pot.
Bring to a rolling boil, and then turn it down to low (not simmer, I was in a rush) for an hour.
Once the meat is done, stir in the canned corn.
If using Chinese vermicelli add to the pot for about 4 minutes, and then remove into your bowl.
Shrimp is amazing. It is low fat, high protein, and so delicious. Today I focus only on the mechanics of cooking shrimp. Side dishes are entirely up to you!
Shrimp – as much as you want, I use the 21-25 size, and for 2 people I usually use 16, which is a perfect fit for a 10 inch pan. Sometimes I peel and devein myself, but most of the time I don’t…
2 tbs butter (or olive oil, but butter is so good)
Salt to taste
Spices – Really, anything you are in the mood for. Most of the time I don’t use any because I love the pure flavor of shrimp. If you use spices, just mix them with the shrimp and oil and let sit a few minutes. DO NOT USE ANY ACIDS SUCH AS LEMON OR LIME.
Cast iron pan (skillet if you don’t have one)
Bowl and spatula for mixing spices (if using)
Prepare your side dishes first. The shrimp will be very quick.
Heat up the empty pan on medium. My stove takes about 4 minutes.
Add the butter. As soon as it melts, using your tongs (or hands), start laying the shrimp down on the pan as fast as you can.
Sprinkle some salt on the top.
Pay attention to the clock! After 2 minutes from the time you laid down your first shrimp, flip them individually with your tongs.
Sprinkle some salt on the top.
Cook 2 minutes total on the back side and immediately remove to a plate.
Comfort food – isn’t all food comfort food? But some dishes are just extra warm, and hearty, and calls to mind evenings spent around the table with family and friends. This potato pie is in the style of the Lancashire Hot Pot (I use ground meat instead of stew meat).
1 lb ground meat (beef or lamb)
2-3 tbs olive oil
3 ribs celery
2 tbs tomato paste
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable or beef stock
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 large Yukon gold potatoes
Knife and board
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Dice onions, celery, and carrots. Slice the potatoes thinly. If you are using a thin skinned potato like a Yukon gold, you will not have to peel them. If you are using a Russet potato, peel first.
Brown the meat in the sauté pan, and then set aside.
Brown the onions, celery, and carrots in the meat juices. Stir in the tomato paste and thyme.
Add the stock, and bring to a boil.
Whisk together the cold water and flour and mix and mix and mix until the liquid has thickened and is boiling again.
Reduce to desired thickness and stir the meat back in.
Pour into the casserole pan.
Layer the potato on top of the meat mixture, overlapping the edges slightly.