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Friday, March 18, 2011

P90X to P-King-Duck aka Descent Into Decadence

So this past Friday certainly started out on track.  With the ever so fit Tony Horton (no relation to my caffeine addiction feeding Tim Horton) leading me through a variety of ass-kicking exercises in the P90X program that were sure to leave me sore in muscles I didn't know I had!  But things took a serious turn for the undeniably gluttonous when we asked our 8 year old where she would like to eat tonight (we take a break from our overworked kitchen on Fridays).  Now you have to understand, these are no ordinary 6 and 8 year olds we have here in our family.  As is, normal kids would have likely chosen some unhealthy fast-food fair of burgers and hot dogs.  But not these kids - they go the gourmet route to feeling stuffed!  We often get shrieks of joy for "SuuuuuSHI"!

As it were - this Friday the demand was "Peking Duck - please please please!".  And how can anyone say no to that?  So off we went knowing full well we would be entering into the marathon of meals but not sure of the location from which the guilty pleasure would ensue.  The restaurant of our choosing (thank you Yelp! reviews) ended up being Koi's Garden in Dublin, CA ( ).  And Oh Boy were we glad for it!

Considering we were just two adults and two skinny looking kids, we sheepishly asked if the Peking Duck dinner would be too much for us.  We were quickly reminded by our waiter (good man!) that we could easily take home any left overs.  It was all the excuse we needed. I mean seriously people - if the taste doesn't blow you away, the quantity certainly will.  Check out what you get when you order the Peking Duck Dinner at Koi's:
 Now - I've had Peking Duck dinners at other places and so was well aware of the multiple courses to come.  At Koi's they do things a little differently than I had previously experienced.  Prior to this, first course always consisted of lettuce leafs to be wrapped around minced/diced sauteed duck and crispy roasted duck skin with thin pancakes, hoisin sauce and spring onions.  At Koi's they reversed the wrap - lettuce was shredded and mixed with some crispy noodles and spring onion shreds and the skin was to be used as the wrap.  They gave us some yummy sweetish steamed buns instead of pancakes (although I still prefer the pancakes as they end up lighter in the belly) and the shredded duck with mushrooms on a bed of thin rice noodles was new to me.

The real bonus came in the shape of the Steamed Crab in Garlic Sauce - messy but divine!  And of course by the time it arrived we had already stuffed ourselves full of duck six ways to heaven so the number of eaters was beginning to dwindle.  After I tried cracking a couple of succulent crab legs and munching on the flavorful fresh crab meat, my husband was the last man standing (or rather eating).  And he did us proud - single-handedly devouring the crab till there was nothing but a dry empty shell.

We brought home enough to feed a family of 4 all over again.  True value for money for sure!  Was it the best Peking Duck meal I've had - I'm not sure.  But it rates high up there and I'd go back in an instant!  Although I'm pretty sure my P90X guru would not approve if I did.  I did wake up the next day and try to burn at least half of it off....that's fair right?  If anyone knows of other awesomely authentic Chinese cuisine spots in the Bay Area CA - or anywhere else for that matter - please do share!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

To milk or not to milk

Okay so experiment number one is to try and make evaporated milk adding nothing.  No preservatives, no thickening agents, no nothing - just milk. Why?  Because I realized that almost no organic or natural evaporated milk is available in the market - I could only find one brand - Santini that makes organic, no crap evaporated milk.  Sure you can get low fat versions - but it still has additives in it (ones I cannot spell without looking at the label and cannot read even looking at it!).  For the record, most will contain Dipotassium Phosphate, Carrageenan and some Vitamin D3 for good measure (FYI these are on the US FDA "generally regarded as safe" (GRAS) lists and have been in use since like forever - whatever that means). 

I first started out needing evaporated milk for another dessert recipe I was trying out.  So I used the regular caned version but was turned off when I realized for the first time that it had stuff in it that wasn't milk (never read the label before - go figure).  Then I tried the same recipe yesterday but tried to evaporate the milk down myself.  Made the mistake of jumping ahead of myself and adding in some sugar before the milk was truly evaporated and so ended up boiling it with sugar added and so guess what I got - condensed milk - not evaporated milk.

Day 2 - So today I'm trying it again - objective is to get plain, all natural evaporated milk.  Here's what I'm supposed to do:
  • Start with 10 cups whole milk (so I can have some extra to refrigerate for later)
  • Heavy base wide metal pot (wide to allow for maximum surface area for evaporation)
  • Ceramic milk watcher (to stop the milk from boiling over and causing a cataclysmic destruction of my stove top!)
  • soft silicone/wooden spatula for stirring
  • Around 2 hours of time to watch/stir and eventually get 60% of the water out of the milk and end up with what we know as evaporated milk.
**Note to self - do not trust the milk watcher - if heat is too high the milk will still boil over!  Caught it just in time, thus averting cataclysmic stove event!** Obviously then the heat must be turned down once it reaches the boiling point.  Of course this adds to the excruciatingly long time it takes to get it down to the 40% of original - grrr!

OOPS - WRONG!  Apparently the milk must not be allowed to boil at all because it will curdle/separate - YUCK!

Day 3 - So the trick is to bring it to a steaming point and then turn the heat low and allow it to steam - stirring often to ensure the skin that forms on the top.  This is going to take FOREVER!!  Does anyone have this kind of time these days?  Should I just pay more ($1.79 vs $1.49 for a can) for the organic canned version?  Eventual cost of making the same amount of evaporated milk myself works out to about $0.70.

After three days of trials, wasting a lot of perfectly good milk (well not wasting it really - found something to do with it), running out of patience - I'm caving to spending more for the store bought version.  AAARGH!  Does anyone know of a milk steaming contraption that might save time and energy and motivate me to try again? :(