Balsamic Glazed Bacon Brussels Sprouts

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Wow, it has almost been half a year since I’ve posted! I have been meaning to get back into posting about my culinary adventures, but life can sometimes get away with you. In December, I was offered a promotion at work. I became a manager, which meant I had to learn how to train others, manager others, and find a way to do it without transforming into the quintessential horrible boss. It is so common to have a horrible boss that Hollywood even made a movie out of it. I wanted to find a way to help train and manage others, ensuring high quality work, while trying to build up those that I supervise. A few months later, I finally feel like I’ve got a grasp on it and have some free time in the evenings ago. While it would be awesome to food blog full-time and support myself financially with this, I have to be practical and make sure that I sustain the life that I have. I realize that we are not all destined to be internet famous (or famous in other ways). I am just content to produce a record of the food I love to cook and be able to share it with others who are interested. So after all this time, I’m going to post a relatively simple recipe, because I’ve had to prepare more simple dishes to accommodate a busy life.

Brussels sprouts were the underdog of the vegetable world that recently became head of the pack in recent years. Chefs have reinvented this misunderstood green, much to my delight. Growing up in an Asian household, we never ate Brussels sprouts. Instead, we would opt for its more mellow cousins-broccoli and gai lan (AKA Chinese broccoli). When I first began experimenting with these oddball veggies, I really couldn’t understand how to make them palatable. They have an intense bitterness that needs to be tamed. So lesson #1: never serve boiled or steamed Brussels sprouts. The bitterness will pucker your lips and turn you away. Instead, Brussels need a good blistering, a result that can only be achieved by combining oil and heat. You can choose to pan fry, deep fry, or roast in the oven. Either way, make sure to use LOTS, and I mean LOTS, of oil and/or butter when cooking these babies.

Friends of Brussels sprouts also include: bacon, vinegar, sugar, garlic, butter, onions. I love adding caramelized onions to my sprouts because they add a nice sweetness. I did not include these in this recipe for the sake of simplicity. Instead, Balsamic vinegar plays a key role in taming the beastly bitterness that resides inside of a Brussels sprout. Aged vinegar will be sweeter than the thinner non-aged versions. You don’t need anything fancy. I love the Trader Joe’s brand of aged balsamic vinegar for this recipe. In terms of bacon, you’ll want to avoid bacon that has a large amount of sugar in it as the high roasting temperatures will burn your bacon. As tempting as they sound, you’ll want to avoid the maple-glazed types of bacon for this recipe.

 

Cooking Tips

I prefer to use fresh Brussels sprouts instead of frozen as that will impact the flavor and texture of your dish.

Cut Brussels sprouts in half or ¼ pieces to increase the surface area that touches oil, which will create more delicious golden and charred surfaces. This will also reduce cooking time and allow any seasonings that you use to better absorb through the layers of leaves that comprise a sprout.

A general tip for roasting veggies in the oven: hotter is better. You want your oven at least at 400 degrees F. Oftentimes, I will actually turn on my broiler/burner on maximum heat to get a good roast on my veggies. At lower temperatures, your veggies will just steam, which defeats the purpose of a good oven treatment.

Although an oven will say that it is at 350 degrees F, there is no knowing its true temperature unless you stick a thermometer inside. It is important to know if your oven runs hot or cold, and where its hot spots are. That way, you can learn to adjust cooking time and rotate your food as needed to ensure even cooking.

Recipe
Servings: 3-4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients
1 lb Brussels sprouts, quartered
4 slices bacon, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch red pepper flake
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced sliced
2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Cut Brussels sprouts length-wise into 1/4 pieces (i.e., cut Brussels sprouts in half, and then in half again).

Cut bacon into ½ inch pieces.

Combine Brussels sprouts with oil, bacon, salt, pepper, and red pepper flake. Place onto a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Spray with additional oil as needed.

Roast Brussels sprouts for 30-35 minutes, turning every 10 minutes to allow even roasting.

When Brussels sprouts have become golden brown and bacon has become crisp, sprinkle minced garlic and splash vinegar evenly onto the sprouts.

Continue to roast for another 5 minutes or until the balsamic vinegar has begun to thicken and become a glaze.

Remove from oven, taste for seasoning, and enjoy!

Easiest, Crispiest, Broiled Chicken Drumsticks

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Turkey day is almost upon us. The holidays are a time to feel gratitude for our friends and family. One person I am thankful for is my uncle. He is an amazing cook and loving father. I really don’t know where I would be without his love, support, and guidance. He taught me to ride a bike, rollerblade, and to work my butt off to achieve my goals. He used to test me on my multiplication tables and catch me at slacking and over-promising which ones I would have memorized. As I kid, I thought I could get away with anything as long as I put a cute smile on my face. My uncle did not fall for this trick, which taught me that I needed to just buckle down and put in the elbow grease to accomplish things. These lessons were so influential in molding who I am as a person.

My uncle was not only influential in helping me build my work ethic, but also my cooking. To be honest, I have never been a big fan of turkey. My family instead prefers chicken, pork, or beef. Instead of having turkey for Thanksgiving, my uncle would often make these chicken drumsticks in bulk for the family. I can still smell the rich, garlicky, scent of the chicken as he took it out of the oven. It was still sizzling in its own fat and juices by the time it reached the table. These are the crispiest, yummiest, caramelized broiled chicken pieces of magical goodness you will have. And they are super easy and quick to make. They are no fuss and foolproof if you follow the cooking directions. The trick is in letting your chicken marinade in garlic salt overnight. It is also important to drain your chicken of juices 3-4 times during the cooking process. Seems sacrilegious, but trust me on this. It will be the most amazing crispy chicken ever. And you don’t even have to fry it!

Cooking tips:

Always pat your meat dry before broiling or searing to create a beautiful golden brown color. I do this with tofu, chicken, steaks, salmon, and scallops before pan-frying. Basically, water is the enemy of crispiness and browning. In this chicken drumstick recipe, the same is true. Pat your chicken dry before broiling.

For this chicken recipe, you’ll want to rub your chicken skin with oil before broiling to help the skin to become crispy.

Allow your chicken to marinade overnight for best results. If not, then marinade for at least 4 hours.

Every oven has its hotspots and cooler spots. To get perfectly evenly cooked chicken, you’re going to have to rotate your chicken from the hotspot to the cool spot and vice versa.

Retain chicken juices to make a pan sauce if desired. You can easily do this by adding some garlic, shallot, butter, and sautéing them until softened. Then add white wine and chicken pan juices and you’ve got a delicious pan sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can even add a splash of lemon juice for some extra brightness!

 

Serves 2-3
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 25-30 minutes

5 chicken drumsticks
1 tbsp garlic salt
1 tbsp olive oil
pepper, to taste

 

Season chicken with garlic salt and rub into meat. Allow to sit in refrigerator overnight.

Take chicken out of marinade and pat dry with paper towels until completely dry.

Pre-heat oven to broil setting.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Place olive oil onto baking sheet and rub drumsticks in oil until every surface is covered in oil. Leave skin side up on drumsticks.

Place drumsticks into the oven ~6 inches below the broiler. Any closer and your chicken skin will burn before the inside is cooked.

5-10 minutes into cooking, drain juices and flip chicken. Allow to cook for another 5 minutes or until the chicken is somewhat browned, then flip and drain juices again. Rotate chicken as needed depending on hotspots and coolspots in oven. Repeat this process of draining and rotating chicken every 5 minutes until chicken is completely cooked through and skin is crispy.

Remove from oven to cool and sprinkle with black pepper.
Enjoy!

 

Deconstructed Peach (or apple) Crisp

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Summer fruit is here! I’m sad that I have only just now posted a recipe featuring these nature’s delights. Peaches and nectarines are among my favorite fruits ever. Their sweet fragrance, slight sour bite, and luscious juicy texture make me weak in the knees. In fact, I am feeling saddened at the thought that fall is quickly coming, and these nectar-filled treasures will no longer grace the shelves of my grocery store. Well, better late than never.

Anyone who is familiar with my cooking preferences and style knows that I have little patience or skill when it comes to pastries, cakes, or any elaborate baking. I have an innate inability to follow directions when it comes to cooking. I feel like a rebel whenever I read a recipe, because I will almost surely veer from it. It gives a sense of satisfaction knowing that I can do whatever I want, despite what others say in their recipes. Yes, I realize this is ironic because I am also sharing recipes and attempting to instruct others on how to prepare food. Usually things work out just fine because I have developed my own sense of proportion and flavor with regards to savory foods. Unfortunately, in the world of baking, only a select few highly skilled bakers can successfully pull this off. This is why I made a peach crisp. Not a cake, not a pie, or a cobbler. Making a fruit crisp is much more forgiving than other sweets, which is why it is one of my go-to recipes for a dessert fit for entertaining.

Cooking Tips

Since peaches are in season, I made good use of them. Pitting and coring them was a huge drain of my energy, but it was all worth it in the end. Other fruits can be used for this fruit crisp, including apples, plums, blueberries, or any other berries. I’m a fan of apple crisps because apples are available year-round in the United States.

I would recommend using less cinnamon if you choose to make a fruit crisp using a berry. Cinnamon does not play as well with berries as it does with apples or peaches. I would recommend using more vanilla extract and omit the cinnamon from the fruit mixture. It should be fine in the crispy topping.

I purposely prepared the fruit separately from the crispy topping. Just like the famed Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, I dislike soggy textures for baked goods. Which is why this peach crisp is a deconstructed one. I recommend combining the crispy topping with the fruit only when serving it. Otherwise, keep them separate.

Add more salt to bring out the richness in this dessert.

 

Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
5-6 peaches, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice of ½ lemon
½ cup brown sugar

¾ cup oats
¾ cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup butter, cut into cubes, cold
½ cup brown sugar
large pinch of salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare crispy topping separately from peaches. Mix together oats, flour, cinnamon, salt, and brown sugar until they are well-combined.

Using a pastry cutter, mix butter into flour and oat mixture. Make sure your butter is cold. Continue to cut butter into mixture until the texture resembles small peas.

Place oat mixture onto a lined baking sheet and spread onto baking sheet in an even layer. Allow to bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

While crispy topping is baking, prepare peach mixture. Add peaches, cinnamon, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and brown sugar into a large sauce pan. Turn fire on medium and allow peaches to cook down. Toss gently every few minutes for even cooking. Cook about 10-15 minutes, and then cover with lid, turn off the fire, and allow peaches to sit for at least 10 minutes. This will prevent the peaches from overcooking.

When crispy topping is done, remove from oven and allow to cool.

When ready to serve, scoop a spoonful of simmered peaches and top with crispy oat topping, and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Enjoy!

 

 

Junior Mac

E948D0E4-B029-44BD-8C78-881885E45A2CAs a child of the 1990s McDonald’s was a major pillar in the structure of my life. Because my family was very frugal with their money, my sisters and I often dreamed of dolls and toys from television commercials knowing that they were never coming home with us. Now that I am an adult I realize what a huge waste of money these overpriced toys are. But as a young child, these seemed to be the end-all be-all of life itself. You felt like you had to have a Barbie doll, Furby, and Tomagachi to fit in with the other kids. Anyway, this was why I looked forward to Happy Meals as a kid. It often came with a toy that otherwise would never have reached my eager hands. As I grew older, I began to appreciate food for its own merits as opposed to its role as a bridge to coveted toys. I realized that the Big Mac tasted so much better than the cheeseburgers in Happy Meals. Back in those days, supersize was the way to go. Of course, at the time we did not realize that this would contribute to an already growing obesity epidemic. I remember the joy and reckless abandon with which I approached each Big Mac combo.

Unfortunately these eating habits led to alarming weight gain into my early twenties. I realized that I could not eat McDonald’s on a regular basis if I wanted to live a long healthy life so I changed my eating habits and exercise habits. Nowadays my typical lunch and dinner plates are filled with veggies and lean proteins. But every once in a while, I crave food that transports me back to the simple days. I return to my childhood favorites, and the Big Mac is definitely #1 for me. Something I’ve learned about food is that nothing improves the taste of food more than nostalgia. Well….nothing beside extreme hunger. So, in attempt to relive fond childhood memories, I made my own Junior Mac. It is a very easy recipe, and unlike the original Big Mac, it only has 1 slice of cheese, 1 patty, and 1 bun. It satisfied my craving without breaking the calorie bank. My husband was definitely a happy camper when I made this for dinner. Hope you enjoy it too!

Cooking Tips

The fattier the ground beef, the more juicy and tender it is. 85% lean ground beef would probably yield a juicier burger, but for health reasons, I usually choose 90-95% lean. The choice is yours.

Do not smash or press your burgers as they cook. That will release all the juices and result in a dry patty.

I like to season my ground beef and mix it together, then form a patty. It gives the meat better flavor. Some people choose to form the patty and then put the seasoning on top. It depends on personal preference, but I am always in favor of more flavor.

For burger patties, always make the patty the same size or a bit larger in circumference than your bun. Burger patties shrink when they are cooked, and if yours is too small it throws off the ratio of your cheeseburger.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients
1 lb ground beef, 90% lean
1 tbsp seasoned salt (I used the Trader Joe’s brand) or to taste
ground pepper to taste
4 burger buns
4 leaves of lettuce
4 slices sharp cheddar or American’s singles
½ cup onion, diced
8 tbsp Thousand Island dressing
Optional: sliced pickles

Place buns in toaster oven and set to light to medium darkness.

Season ground beef with seasoned salt and pepper, then form into 4 equal patties. Use the burger bun as a reference point for the size of your patties. Make your burger the same size or a bit larger than your bun.

Heat large skillet and spray with a bit of cooking oil. When pan is hot place burger patties on skillet. Fry on each side for 3-5 minutes depending on desired level of doneness.

After flipping burger patties, place a slice of cheese on top of each patty and cover pan with a lid to allow cheese to melt.

(Optional step: sear some additional cheese directly on the pan for 1 minute for a gooey burnt cheese addition to your burger. )

When burger patties are done, spread Thousand Island dressing on both sides of buns.

Place burger patty on bottom bun. Layer lettuce, onion, and pickles on top. Then top with the top bun.

Enjoy!