YEAR OF THE HORSE

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Lobster Yifu Noodles
(adapted from a recipe by Pig Pig’s Corner)

3-4 portions of yifu noodles (“yee mein” dried egg noodles)
1 two-pound lobster, cleaned and chopped (crack the claws)
vegetable oil
5 slices of fresh ginger
5 cloves of garlic, halved
5 stalks of scallions, white and green parts separated, chopped
1/4 cup of Shaoxing cooking wine
3 1/2 cups of homemade Chinese soup stock*
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
cornstarch slurry (5-6 tbsp cornstarch + water)
handful of shitake mushrooms (from stock)
1 whole egg

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the noodles until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the noodles and drain thoroughly. Heat about 1-2 inches of vegetable oil in a large saucepan or wok. Deep fry the noodles in several batches, about 4 minutes on each side. Set the fried noodles aside on a wire rack or paper towels. Next, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan or wok. Add the ginger, garlic, and white parts of the scallions. Stir-fry until fragrant. Add the lobster (claws and tail, plus shell of the body) and stir-fry until the shells turn bright orange. Add the Shaoxing wine. Stir-fry until almost dry. Add the stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Then add the mushrooms, oyster sauce, white pepper, cornstarch slurry, and sesame oil, mixing well. Finally add the egg; when the egg white begins to set, stir it into the sauce. Before serving, add the green parts of the scallions to the sauce. Position the fried noodles on a large platter. Pour the lobster and sauce over the fried noodles and serve immediately.

* For the stock: Toss one diced onion, one entire bulb of garlic halved horizontally, five slices of ginger, and the white parts of spring onions or scallions in oil. Roast under the broiler until vegetables begin to brown. Add the roasted vegetables to a pot of boiling water (about 2.5 liters) with five dried scallops, two tablespoons of peppercorns, one heaping handful of dried shitake mushrooms, and one tablespoon of kosher salt. Simmer for 1 hour. Pour the stock through a sieve, saving the mushrooms and scallops for use in the lobster sauce.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

WINTER WARMTH

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Walnut Praline Semifreddo with Warm Honey 
(adapted from Russell Norman’s POLPO Cookbook)

1 1/4 cups of extra fine sugar
1 1/2 cups of chopped walnuts
4 free-range eggs, separated
2 fl. oz of a good port (or Marsala)
2 1/2 cups of whipping cream
the best honey you can find
a glass of grappa

To make the walnut praline, melt 1 cup of the sugar in a heavy pan with 2 tablespoons of water until it is a rich golden brown color. Quickly pour it over the walnuts in a tray. Leave it to cool. Then crush the walnut praline into smaller pieces. Before making the semifreddo, place three bowls and a metal container (such as a loaf pan) in the freezer. Take the first bowl and use an electric whisk to whip the egg whites into stiff peaks. In the second bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/4 cup of sugar and the port until it is pale and fluffy. In the third bowl whisk the whipping cream to soft peaks. Fold the egg whites one spoonful at a time into the egg yolk mixture. Then fold that into the cream. Lastly, fold in the walnut praline, reserving a little for sprinkling later. Pour the mixture into the metal container. Cover it with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. To serve, you can either slice the semifreddo onto a plate or scoop it into a small bowl or ice cream cone. Drizzle it with warmed honey and serve immediately, ideally with a glass of grappa.

NAUGHTY THINGS

carrots

Anchovy croutons have become a staple on Mr. Alpenglow’s menus. They are naughty things. In the winter, they pair well with roasted root vegetables and parsley, and in the summer with stir-fried snap peas and mint. Resting in a pillow of smoked ricotta is appropriate all year round.

Roasted Carrots with Smoked Ricotta
anchovy croutons, parsley, lemon zest

1 large bunch of carrots, peeled
1/4 cup of Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup of smoked ricotta*
1/3 of an old baguette
1 tin of anchovies
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
lemon zest
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
about 1/4 cup of olive oil

For the croutons, tear the baguette into small pieces. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and anchovies, using a wooden spoon to dissolve the anchovies into the oil. Add the baguette pieces and mix well. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Place the croutons onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Heat the oven to 425. Coat the carrots with oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes until they begin to char. Prepare the parsley by simply coating with the white balsamic vinegar. To serve, spoon the smoked ricotta onto a plate. Put the carrots on top of the ricotta, then some olive oil, then some of the croutons, then the parsley and finally the lemon zest.

* smoked ricotta is available at many fine cheesemongers, but any fresh ricotta will do.

STATE OF THE UNION

greenpancakes
It doesn’t take much to distract your average American from the President’s State of the Union speech. Tonight, Mr. Alpenglow was lured away by Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi. How very unpatriotic. Fortunately, the recipes really are vibrant. Most vibrant of all are the Green Pancakes with Lime Butter. Like a Berkeley grad student in the ’60s, they embody that effortless melange of funk (from cumin), heat (chiles), and vegetal aroma (the greens). A Negroni keeps it all in check.

Green Pancakes with Lime Butter 
(recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi)

for the lime butter:
8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
grated zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 tsp chile flakes

for the pancake batter:
1/2 lb spinach, wilted and chopped
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 egg
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
2/3 cup milk
6 medium green onions, finely sliced
2 fresh green chiles, thinly sliced
1 egg white
olive oil for frying

To make the lime butter, mix all the ingredients together. Transfer to a ramekin. Chill until firm. Proceed to the pancake batter. Mix the flour, baking powder, whole egg, melted butter, salt, cumin, and milk in a large bowl until smooth. Add the green onions, chiles, and spinach. Whisk in the egg white. Pour some olive oil into a nonstick frying pan on medium heat. For each pancake, ladle about two tablespoons of batter into the pan and press down gently, yielding small pancakes about 3 inches in diameter. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side until you get a golden-green color. Transfer to paper towels and keep warm. Continue making pancakes, adding oil to the pan as needed. To serve, stack the pancakes and place some of the lime butter on top to melt.

Negroni 

1.25 oz. Plymouth gin
1.25 oz. Campari
1.25 oz. Dolin sweet vermouth

Stir with ice and strain into chilled coupe.
Garnish with an orange twist.

FROM MY LIBRARY

Mr. Alpenglow’s go-to cookbook of the moment is Russell Norman’s POLPO: A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts). Think crostini, cod cheeks with lentils, meatballs (polpette), walnut and honey semifreddo: uncomplicated dishes that you’ll want to make for parties big and small. The book itself is beautiful beyond words, best enjoyed with a Campari spritz or two.

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ANCHOVY & CHICKPEA CROSTINI 
(makes 10 crostini)

1 400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
10 anchovy fillets chopped, plus some of their oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 handful of flat parsley leave chopped
1 tablespoon tahini
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
about 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mix all the ingredients, then pulse a few times in a food processor to create a chunky paste. Spread roughly onto lightly grilled slices of bread.

FENNEL, RADISH & MINT WITH RICOTTA
(for 4-6 servings)

400g ricotta
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100 mL extra virgin olive oil
2 fennel bulbs
12 red breakfast radishes
1 small handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
juice of 1 lemon

Season the ricotta with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil. Smear a generous spoonful onto each plate. Slice the fennel and radishes as finely as possible (using a mandoline if you have one) and place them in a bowl. Add the mint, a pinch of salt and pepper, the olive oil, and lemon juice. Turn gently until everything is lightly coated. Place on top of the ricotta.

ASK MR. ALPENGLOW

Q: I have a friend sick with a cold. Will you suggest a
menu of cold-busting dishes that I can make for her?

A: Here are some of my favorites for cold/flu season:

HONEY, LEMON & GINGER “TEA”

about 1 cup of hot water
about 1/3 a small lemon’s juice
about 1 tablespoon honey
grated fresh ginger to taste

CHINESE AROMATIC CHICKEN BROTH 

2 whole Cornish game hens, cleaned
handful of fresh or dried shitake mushrooms
handful of fresh or dried bamboo shoots
several slices of cured ham
6 cloves of garlic
6 dried jujubes or dried goji berries
1-2 small ginseng roots
1 bunch of thinly sliced scallions
soy sauce

Put all the ingredients in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for an hour or so, removing any impurities. Replenish the water and bring to a simmer again. Adjust seasoning (using soy sauce) to taste. Top with the scallions and serve with rice, noodles, or bread.

SHRIMP & SPINACH WONTONS 

about 1/2 pound of shrimp
(peeled, deveined, chopped)
2 cups of chopped baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
36 wonton wrappers

In a large bowl, combine the shrimp, spinach, white pepper, corn starch, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Place a small amount of the mixture onto a wonton wrapper, wet the edges with cold water, and press to seal using your favorite method. Repeat until all of the mixture is used. Boil a large pot of water. Add the wontons in batches. They are done when they float and the wonton skins are translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve immediately (ideally with broth).

CURRY CHICKEN & COCONUT MILK CHOWDER 

1 pound of boneless skinless chicken thigh, diced
3 medium yellow onions, diced
3 bell peppers, diced
3 potatoes, diced
1 can of baby corn, diced
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 pieces of Hot Golden Curry paste
1 can of coconut milk
3 cups of low-sodium chicken stock
soy sauce
vegetable oil

Heat oil in a pot. Add the chicken and cook until browned. Set the chicken aside. Saute the onions, peppers, potatoes, baby corn, and garlic until softened. Add the curry pieces and work it into the vegetables until dissolved. Add the chicken stock and about 2-3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Add the cooked chicken, coconut milk and simmer for 5 more minutes. Adjust the seasoning (using curry and soy sauce) as necessary. Serve with steamed rice.

SELF-PANDERING

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When planning a dinner menu, our instinct is to anticipate guests’ likes and dislikes. Mr. Alpenglow can play that game, but it quickly grows tiresome. “Will Luisa enjoy grilled sardines with pickled fennel?” Pandering to others is a sign of youthful folly. Pandering to yourself is far better and wiser. The question, “What would be most appealing to me?” dictates each step of the meal. BAM BANG BOOM. The menu just rolls out, plump and juicy:

Classic Whiskey Sours
flavored with luxardo cherries

Chopped Chicken Liver Crostini
finished with reduced port and brandy 

Kale and Blood Orange Salad
smoked paprika croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, honey

Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken
crispy yukon gold potatoes, chimichurri 

Homemade Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
salted pistachio shortbread crumbs, whipped cream

Salted Pistachio Shortbread 

2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup salted pistachios chopped
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Combine the butter, sugar, and flour. Add the pistachios. Roll out the dough into one or two logs. Freeze until firm. Cut into 1/4 inch slices and bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown. Let cool.

IN CELEBRATION

Live black cod isn’t exactly a common thing to find in your local grocery store. Mr. Alpenglow became terribly flustered when he saw it. That’s when the trouble began. “I’ll take two whole.” The fishmonger obliges. By the time Mr. Alpenglow realizes he’s just ordered 10 pounds of black cod — a lavi$h order — the fishes have had their heads bludgeoned. It begins to feel hot. A rush of pride like steam obscures obvious exit strategies…

In this way, beautiful black cod from California’s Morro Bay (prepared in Nobu‘s signature fashion) took center stage for a special New Year’s Eve menu to celebrate Mr. Alpenglow’s mom’s birthday. With it: toasted sesame rice, roasted fairytale eggplant, lightly pickled cucumbers, sauteed rainbow chard, and champagne.

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MISO BLACK COD 
(adapted from recipe by Nobu Matushisa)

3 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons sake
1/2 cup white miso paste
1/3 cup sugar
6 black cod fillets, about 6 ounces each

In a small saucepan, bring the mirin, sake, miso paste, and sugar to a simmer. Transfer to a baking dish and let cool completely. Add the cod fillets and let marinate at least 3 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 400. Scrape the marinade off the cod fillets and coat them with oil. Sear them in a hot pan for 2 minutes until browned, then transfer to the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.