Monthly Archives: September 2009

beer can peking duck in an oven (啤酒鑵北京烤鴨)

peking duck pre-carving

peking duck pre-carving

platter of duck

platter of duck

the crispness of the skin on the beer can chicken impressed me so much that i thought the “beer can” cooking technique might actually translate well when applied to making peking duck. the beer can technique did not fail.  after an hour of roasting, the fat on the duck had been completely rendered, leaving the skin crisp and flakey. because i had used a young duckling, there was even less fat left on the duck than the super crispy version that i ate at Dadong (大董烤鴨店) in Beijing.

a lot of the recipes that i looked at called for some rather fancy contraptions and old school techniques.  the classic process of making peking duck seems to involve blowing air between the skin and the flesh of the duck with an air pump and then hang drying the duck with a fan blowing for several hours.  lacking both the air pump and a fan (as well as the desire for my place to smell like raw duck), i opted for some shortcuts.

Beer Can Peking Duck in an Oven (啤酒鑵北京烤鴨)
(note: there’s a ton of wait time in this recipe, so you really need to plan ahead)

Duck                            ~5 lbs.  I bought the duck from WF.  The duck head and neck has been removed.
Peking duck is traditionally made with the head still on.
Honey                          3 tbsp
Rice Vinegar               3 tbsp
Salt                               a few sprinkles
Water                           see recipe below
5 Spice Powder          1 tsp
Star Anise                   1 piece (optional)
Cinnamon                   1 stick (optional)

  1. Wash duck.  Trim off excess skin and fat.  Rub salt over the skin of the duck.  Pat it dry.  Then wash the salt off the duck, set aside and let it dry from 30 minutes.
  2. Separate the skin from the muscle using your hands or chopsticks.  Be careful not to puncture the skin.
  3. Tie the duck upright by placing some kitchen twin underneath the duck’s wings and hanging the duck from your kitchen faucet.
  4. Boil 4 cups of water. With the duck hanging in the sink,  scorch the skin with the boiling water on all sides with a ladle.
  5. Let duck dry for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  6. In a pot, combine 3 cups of water, honey and rice vinegar and bring to a boil.
  7. Ladle the honey, vinegar, water mixture onto the duck again.  Make sure the duck is coated on all sides.
  8. Mount the duck on an unopened beer can (b/c the duck is longer, I used a 1 pint beer can that is taller than the regular beer can).  The duck should be upright. Place the duck with the beer can in a hotel pan and place in the oven for 5-6 hours.  The oven should be set to defrost (which is around 75ºF.  You’re basically looking for the oven fan to blow on the duck with no to minimal heat).
  9. When the duck has thoroughly dried, take it out of the oven and remove the beer can from the cavity.  Next, open the beer can, empty out about 2 inches, insert the 5 spice powder, star anise and cinnamon, and re-insert the beer can into the duck. The duck should be standing up over a hotel pan.  (A lot of duck fat is rendered in the roasting process and collects in the hotel pan.)
  10. Roast at 400°F for 50-60 minutes.
  11. Gently carve the skin off in thin slices and serve with scallions, cucumbers, hoisin sauce and peking duck pancakes.

(Note: I made my own pancakes, but I think it’s not really worth the effort.  Just buy the pre-made ones in the store.  The hoisin sauce will taste infinitely better if you mix about 1/3 cup of hoisin sauce with 3 tbsp of sesame oil and 3 tbsp of rice wine).

duck wrap with cucumbers and hoisin sauce.  eat it like a taco!

duck wrap with cucumbers and hoisin sauce. eat it like a taco!


our wedding cake. . . one year later

IMG_2370 we celebrated our first anniversary last night by unwrapping the top of our wedding cake that had been sitting in the freezer for the past 365 days.  not knowing what to expect, i was delightfully surprised that the cake remained well…um intact with fondant calla lilies and all. the cake itself, was a chocolate mousse cake.  surprisingly it tasted fantastic, especially after having sat around for a year! i did notice, however, that the reason it tasted so good probably had to do with the inch thick layer of buttercream and fondant serving as a sugary and blubbery insulation for the chocolate mousse layer cake inside. in terms of longevity, i think this cake may have been designed to even outlast the twinkie!

as easy as apple tart

IMG_2361i did some etymology on the phrase “as easy as apple pie” this weekend.  if you’ve ever made a pie, especially the first time, you’ll probably be in agreement that there’s nothing easy about making pie.  in fact, many other baked goods, like brownies, muffins, cupcakes, are far easier to make than pie.  on top of that, pies and tarts are typically rustic affairs, unlike cakes that are typically associated with special occasions. they are something that you’re supposed to be able to just throw together without much effort.  i can whip out a cake any day.  i can’t, however, whip out an apple tart without at least a day of planning. tarts are a multi-step process and a labour of love.

the french apple tart is like an american apple pie primped and pressed into a pair of haute couture denim jeans — they are  jeans just a bit nicer. the french apple tart is less gooey, less sweet with apples fanned out on display in impossibly thin slices. It’s still unmistakably rustic but in a marie antoinette’s petit hameau kind of way. I can’t, however, imagine making apple tarts/pies in any other way.

Apple Tart (a 5 step process)


  • tart shell:  you can use any tart shell you have on hand, although it’s typically made with pate brisee. i used pate sucree in the picture above.
  • apple compote
  • apples for fanning
  • note: there’s a lot of peeling and coring of apples involved. if you can’t be bothered, this really isn’t the recipe for you.

Step 1

Prepare tart shell and let rest for several hours.

Step 2

Roll-out tart dough and line the tart ring.  Place in freezer and let chill while oven is heating.  Blind bake the tart shell for about 30 minutes at 350°F or until the shell is golden brown.   When done, take the shell out of the oven and set aside.

Step 3

Make apple compote.  Peel and core 2.5 apples (golden delicious is best).  Cut the apples into 1/4 inch cubes.  Place apples and the juice from half a lemon into a sauce pan.  Add in about 1/4 cup of sugar and a vanilla bean (split and scraped).  Cook over medium heat until the apples have softened and the juice has mostly evaporated. Take off heat and set aside.

Step 4

Prepare apples for the top of the tart.  Peel and core 2-3 apples. As soon as you’re done peeling the apples, rub lemon all over the apples to prevent them from turning brown. Slice eat apple in half and carefully take out the rest of the core.  Rub lemon over the inside of the apple as well. With the interior of the apple face down on a cutting board, cut apple across its width into the thinnest slices possibly.  It’s easiest to do this with a paring knife.  You should also keep the cut apples together so as to form their original apple shape.

Step 5

Arrangement. Evenly spread the apple compote into the bottom of the tart shell.  It should completely cover the bottom of the shell in a 1/2 inch thick layer.  Pick up the slices apple halves and fan them out on top of the apple compote, until the tart is completely covered.

When done, sprinkle some sugar on top of the apple slices.  You can also drizzle some burnt butter on top of the slices for extra flavour.

Bake in oven at 350°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the apples are caramelized. After baking, you can also glaze the apples with some apricot syrup for extra shine (optional).

double soft white bread (ダ○ルソフト)

azuki bread vivisection

azuki bread vivisection

anpan double soft bread

azuki double soft bread - a bit lopsided

plan double soft bread

plain double soft bread

yes, i’m at it again with the soft japanese breads. came across this japanese bread website the other day and i’ve been slowly working my way thru the recipes. intrigued by “double soft” (i mean really, how much softer can bread get?), i decided to test out this recipe.   having some extra azuki paste in the fridge that i wanted to use, i doubled the recipe below to make one azuki version and one plain loaf.

the initial dough that i mixed together was really too wet.  i may have accidentally measured out too much water or perhaps i slipped up on the flour as i was doubling the recipe in my head.  at any rate, i’d caution anyone attempting to make this loaf, to really add the water slowly.  my guess is that i probably needed about 2/3 of the amount advocated in the recipe.

despite some cosmetic errors on my part, the bread came out really tasty.  it’s indeed soft, light, moist and fluffy.  i suspect, however, that the “double” in the name, may actually refer to the two ridges the bread is supposed to produce.  my plain loaf over-rose and the 2 domes got smushed together.  you can see the double domes in the azuki version better — though it came out a wee bit lopsided.  there’s always next time!

Double Soft Bread
(for 1 loaf; adapted from

Bread Flour                 160g
AP Flour                       160g
Dry yeast                          3g
Sugar                               13g
Malt Syrup                     32g  (also known as Barley Malt Syrup; you can substitute with molasses or sugar or honey)
Salt                                     6g
Egg                                     1 egg
Heavy Cream                  32g
Unsalted Butter              16g
Warm Water                 160g (***you may not need all the water***)

  1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water.  Set aside and allow the yeast to foam up for about 15 minutes
  2. Mix together fours, malt syrup and salt.
  3. Add egg, cream and butter.  Blend together using a dough hook and low/medium speed.  I use a stand mixer.
  4. Add yeast, sugar, water mix slowly until the dough just comes together.  Continue to knead for about 5 minutes until the dough begins to separate from bowl.
  5. Let proof until the dough has doubled in size.  Roughly 1-2 hours.
  6. Separate the dough into 2 even pieces.
  7. Flatten the dough until it’s about 9-inch round on a floured surface, using a rolling pin.
  8. With your hands, roll the dough into a log and tuck the ends under.  Repeat with other piece of dough.
  9. Place the 2 logs next to each other in a greased loaf pan (about 4.5 x 8.5 inches).
  10. Let proof until the dough has reached the lip of the loaf pan. About 1 hour.
  11. Brush the loaf with some egg wash.
  12. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes; turn down to 325°F and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.
  13. Take out of pan and cool on a rack.

maple leaf crusted sweet potato tart

IMG_2359 i had some extra sweet potatoes left over so i decided to transform my sweet potato cheesecake recipe into a tart. i also spied my fall leaf and acorn cookie cutters from the corner of my eye and got the idea to decorate the top of the cart with some leaf and acorn cut-outs. it looks much prettier this way, and hides my well uneven hand in spreading out the sweet potato filling evenly across the pie.

the tart crust and cut-outs are constructed using a basic pâte sucrée recipe that i got from the french culinary institute.

here’s how i did it:

Maple Leaf Crusted Sweet Potato Tart
(makes 1 9-inch tart)

  • 1 sweet potato cheesecake filling recipe from sweet potato cheesecake recipe
  • About 1/3 + a bit more of the pâte sucrée dough recipe below
  • Flour for dusting
  • Sugar for sprinkling
  1. Roll out tart dough over a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick
  2. Carefully transfer dough to a 9-inch tart ring set over parchment paper.  It’s easiest to transfer the dough if you re-roll it up around your rolling pin and then unfurl it
  3. Brush off excess flower on tart dough with a pastry brush
  4. Adhere the tart dough to the bottom and against the sides of the tart ring to ensure a tight fit.  You want 90 degree angles on the bottom of the tart.
  5. Pinch off excess dough.
  6. Transfer to freezer and chill for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Do not throw away the excess dough.  You need it to make the top.  Wrap the excess dough in plastic and set aside in the refrigerator.
  8. Prepare filling as per sweet potato cheesecake recipe
  9. Spread filling even in tart shell
  10. Roll out the excess tart dough until 1/4 inch thick.
  11. Using a cookie cutter, cut out enough pieces until the top of the tart is covered.  I had to re-roll the excess dough several times to cover the top of the tart
  12. Sprinkle the top of the tart with sugar
  13. Bake in oven at 350°F for 45 minutes
  14. Remove from oven and cool

Pâte Sucrée
(makes 3 tarts, adapted from french culinary institute)

Cake Flour                           500g
Confectioner’s Sugar          125g
Butter                                    250g
Eggs                                            3

  1. Beat butter using paddle attachment in stand mixer until it is soft and creamy.
  2. Add sugar to butter mixture and continue to beat until it is light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time into the mixture until well incorporated.
  4. Turn the mixer down to the lowest setting and add cake flour.  Beat until the mixture just comes together to form a dough.  Do not overbeat, as it encourages the develop of gluten which causes a chewy crust.
  5. Form the dough into a flat disc and wrap in plastic.
  6. Allow dough to rest for at least 2 hours before using.  It can stay refrigerated for 3-4 days and frozen for several months.

beer can chicken in an oven

beer can chicken

beer can chicken

i was watching food network the other day and saw a demonstration of beer can kitchen being cooked over a grill.  it seemed so easy and yet so odd (i mean how does someone come up with the idea of cooking a chicken with a beer can in its cavity?!) that i thought i’d give it a try.  the result was a chicken with perfectly crisp rotisserie style skin on all sides.  compared to an herb and lemon chicken roasted the normal way,  i’d say that the crispy skin definitely takes the cake, but the flesh does end up being a bit less moist and less flavourful.  still, all-in, a delightful way of roasting chicken.

did i say this was a really simple recipe?

Beer Can Chicken
(based on what i observed on the food network)

Chicken                               5-6 lbs
Beer                                     1 can
Salt & Pepper                    a few pinches
Veg Oil                               1-2 tbsp
Your favorite spice rub   a few tbsp

  1. Wash chicken, trim excess fat and pat dry.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper inside the cavity of the chicken and on the outside as well.
  3. Drizzle vegetable oil over the inside and outside of the chicken.
  4. Rub spice rub thoroughly on the interior and exterior of the chicken.
  5. Open beer can.  Pour out about 1 inch. (Some recipes call for adding some spice rub or herbs to the beer can).
  6. Stand the chicken on top of the beer can, i.e. the beer can should be in the cavity of the chicken.
  7. The chicken should be able to stand upright.  You might need to reposition the legs slightly to get it to stand.
  8. Place the upright chicken in a deep pan.
  9. Roast in oven at 400°F for about 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches 180°F.
  10. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes.
  11. Be careful when removing the beer can (or you can serve it upright with the beer can intact) as it is still very hot.

turkey pad krapow (ผัดกะเพรา)

turkey krapow

a heaping plate of turkey pad krapow

my friend G (yes, the same one who OD’d in my hokkaido reverie) has been spreading the gospel on costco’s ground turkey. apparently, it’s not only low in fat, high in protein but also a true bargain!  $14 buys you 8 lbs or so, which compares to about $5-6 for 1 lb at WF.  then again, i suppose butterball brand ground turkey at costco isn’t exactly organic, free range or anything wholesome like that. life is about choices.

having followed his example and lugged back a 4-pack myself, i set about figuring out what to do with the stuff. turkey meatballs, bolognese turkey sauce, braised “lion’s head”, turkey burgers, turkey patties with salted fish, turkey fried rice, turkey tsukune, and the list goes on and on.  i really should be thanking G’s ground turkey obsession, as it led me to the promised land of thai basil stir-fry or pad krapow.  (i did some digging around and it turns out that the “pad” means  stir-fried and ” krapow” = basil).

i’ve seen chicken pad krapow on most thai menus but very rarely turkey.  i quite like the taste of the turkey version, and i think it’s because i eat it so often that i prefer it to chicken.

Turkey Pad Krapow
(Makes a heaping plate; ~4 servings)

Ground Turkey ~2 lbs (I usually use 1 package of costco’s butterball ground turkey meat)
Shallots 2 bulbs, julienned (yes, you can substitute for a small onion if you haven’t got shallots around)
Chili Peppers You can use any pepper to your liking; however, you should adjust the amount based on your spice tolerance.  For low/med heat, use 1 jalapeño peppers or about 2-3 thai chili peppers.  Please note that I have a rather high spice tolerance, so adjust accordingly.
Basil An entire bunch, leaves only
Veg Oil 2 tbsp
Brown Sugar 2 tbsp
Fish Sauce 4 tbsp
  1. Heat oil in a wok or large pot on med/high heat
  2. Toss in shallots and sautee until lightly browned
  3. Then, add ground turkey.  Stir-fry until browned and the liquid has mostly evaporated
  4. Add in chili peppers
  5. In a small bowl, dissolve sugar into fish sauce
  6. Add the sugar and fish sauce solution into the wok. Stir fry for 30 more seconds
  7. Add in the basil.  Cook for 20 more seconds until the basil has just wilted
  8. Remove from heat and serve with white rice

(NB. this dish is sometimes served with a poached egg on top. the egg yolk running into the pad krapow is really quite tasty)