Siam Orchid 

Guapo and I had some time on my birthday before we had to pick up Mini-Guapo from school and he wanted to take me out for lunch. I have a particular fondness for southeast Asian cuisine and immediately seized the opportunity to suggest a Thai restaurant we’d walked past in Williamsburg some months ago. 

Siam Orchid is a teeny weeny hole-in-the-wall restaurant that seats all of a dozen people. This isn’t the place for folks who want exotic ambiance or those who dislike very cramped dining quarters. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure I’d want to eat here at peak meal time; I’d probably want to stab the person next to me for being practically in my back pocket. Luckily, we arrived after prime lunch time and had the place to ourselves. We were also right in time for their lunch special too so you know this tickled my cheap little soul! 

The lunch special includes a choice of either spring rolls or salad. Guess which we chose?

  

Guapo ordered the Thai basil beef fried rice

I was surprised: the food was simple but really good. So tasty, I wanted to tell Guapo, “Honey, look at that!” and steal all his rice while his head was turned. 😀 But I’m a nice wife who never wants her sweet husband to ever go hungry so I left his food in peace. He’ll never know how close he was to losing his entire meal! MWAHAHA! 

It’s not like I didn’t have a great dish myself. One of the reasons I love Penang curry so much is it reminds me very much of my grandmother’s ohno kow soi: Burmese spicy curry made with creamy coconut milk, chicken, lemongrass and other southeast Asian flavors.  

Penang curry with chicken

For under ten bucks per person, Siam Orchid’s lunch specials are terrific value.  I would absolutely go back, but for my fellow diners’ safety and my blood pressure’s sake, probably not during peak dining hours. 

Siam Orchid

378 Metropolitan Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11211

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Baked Asparagus “Fries”

My UK relatives came to visit earlier this summer and as usual, my entire extended family tried their damnedest to shove as much food down Aunt and Uncle’s gullets as possible. Aunt and Uncle have admitted they long stopped trying to stay on their nice healthy diet and just pig out whenever they come to the States. I suspect they tell their kids, “Well, we’re visiting the Blossom family again. Time to pack our eatin’ clothes!”

We’ve also sold our family home and are getting ready to go back to apartment living. Which means no more back yard BBQs. We don’t have many BBQs, to be honest, but we do one every time Aunt and Uncle come to visit because that’s the only way we can host 30+ people at once in our tiny house.

And so we had our last family grill-out this past June. These things tend to be both meat-heavy and boring in terms of veggies. We usually just have a green Romaine salad with tomato, onion, cucumber, and sliced avocado. YAAAAAWN. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice salad, but I was craving something different.

Enter the humble asparagus. It took me a while to fall in love with this funny-looking perennial plant but when I did, I fell hard. I now love nice tender asparagus! Full of fiber, antioxidants, and folate, it’s enough to make anyone go yummmm.

Well, it’s enough to make you go, anyway. 😀

I decided to bread and then roast these spears, then make Hollandaise sauce for dipping.  Yeah, that’s right, that’s how I roll!

Before their visit to the oven

Breaded and baked asparagus

Baked Asparagus “Fries”

1 lb asparagus, trimmed of tough ends
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup panko or seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 tsp smoked paprika, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 TBS olive oil

Hollandaise sauce

Heat the oven to 425F. Generously grease two rimmed baking sheets with the olive oil.

Season both the flour and beaten eggs with the paprika, salt and pepper. In one plate or dish, place the flour. In another goes the beaten eggs. In a third plate, mix the panko and cheese together.

Dip an asparagus spear into the seasoned flour, then into the egg before coating with the panko. Place the breaded asparagus on the oiled baking sheet and repeat until all asparagus are coated. If you have an oil mister, mist a little olive oil over the vegetables and place in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden and crisp.  I used bits of butter for this. 😀

If you want to do this on the grill, you can use disposable jelly roll pans (quarter-sheet sized) and place them in the grill. You can also fashion one out of heavy-duty foil. Just be sure there are rims to keep the asparagus from falling through the grate. Grill with the cover on for about 10 minutes.

Serve with Hollandaise sauce for dipping.

Hollandaise Sauce

Man, there’s very little I love more than Hollandaise sauce. Lemony, buttery, and rich, it’s the perfect accompaniment to all kinds of foods. Eggs, fish, chicken, seafood, and veggies, I’ll eat anything if you give me a bowl of Hollandaise to go with it!

Hollandaise sauce is not really difficult to make, just tedious. And if, like me, you don’t have a hand mixer, you’ll get an arm workout with every batch of this luscious sauce. Which is probably an excellent thing because Hollandaise is like the anti-health food, so you’ll need all the exercise you can get.

I like mine pretty lemony, but if you don’t, feel free to halve the lemon juice.

Obviously not the greatest photo I’ve ever taken, but I kinda don’t care because this Hollandaise sauce was pretty damned good!

Hollandaise Sauce

3 large egg yolks
1 TBS water
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
2 sticks (8 oz) butter, room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized chunks (I used salted butter)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I used smoked paprika for my Baked Asparagus “Fries”)
Salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste

Set a large saucepan of water to boil. In the meantime, whisk the yolks, water, and lemon juice in a heatproof bowl or a saucepan slightly smaller than the first one. When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down to the lowest setting and set the bowl with the yolk mixture on top. It’s okay if the water touches the bottom of the pan. Whisk the egg mixture continuously until its volume doubles and you can see the bottom of the bowl when you drag the whisk across it.

Continue whisking while you add the butter pieces one at time, whisking until each piece is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next bit of butter. Keep whisking until all the butter is gone. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. If the sauce is too thick, whisk in an additional teaspoon or so of lemon juice.

If you need to put it aside for a few minutes while something else cooks, you can pour the sauce into an insulated thermos  or pour out some of the simmering water so that it no longer touches the bottom of the bowl, set the bowl back on the saucepan, turn off the heat, and keep the sauce covered until you’re ready to use it, but you should use it within an hour or two of making it.

Homemade Marshmallows

For several weeks now, I’ve been thinking about office-appropriate, wallet-friendly holiday treats and I came up with marshmallows. I’d never made these before and thought it would be kind of fun to experiment on my colleagues. 😀

I got a little ahead of myself and tried to make elderflower marshmallows.  They actually turned out pretty nicely in terms of texture but the initial taste wasn’t right. Too… tart? It left a nice floral aftertaste but I feel if something doesn’t taste good going in, it doesn’t matter what it tastes like afterward.  I wasn’t wowed by the flavor and I think I’ll omit the elderflower syrup for my next batch.

Marshmallows require overnight curing and generous helpings of powdered sugar. They’re also a little softer and stickier than commercial marshmallows, so do make sure your work surface is well-dusted with sugar and that your knife is sharp and cleaned often so the candy doesn’t stick to the blade. This is not the kind of thing you want to make on a humid day.

Powdered sugar-coated marshmallow

Powdered sugar-coated marshmallow

Homemade marshmallow in hot chocolate

Homemade marshmallow in hot chocolate

Anyway, here is the recipe, minus the elderflower syrup.

Homemade Marshmallows

Butter for greasing pan
1 TBS powdered sugar or more as needed
1/2 cup cold water
2 (2 TBS) envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water

1/3 cup powdered sugar

Generously grease an 8×8 baking pan.  This will make very thick marshmallows. If you prefer slightly smaller ones, use a 9×9. Dust very thoroughly with powdered sugar.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water and set it aside to soften.

In a 2-qt saucepan, heat sugar, corn syrup, salt and water over low heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly. Heat to boiling and let it cook without stirring for another 30 minutes until a small amount of syrup dropped into a bowl of cold water forms a soft, pliable ball. Remove from heat.

Slowly pour syrup into softened gelatin while beating on low speed using the paddle attachment. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until mixture is white and has almost tripled in volume. Pour into baking dish, patting lightly with wet hands to smooth tops. Let stand uncovered overnight.

Dust cutting board with a couple tablespoons powdered sugar. Sift remaining powdered sugar into small bowl. Loosen marshmallow sides from dish (you may need a well-greased knife for this) and gently lift in one piece onto cutting board. Using a sharp knife greased with butter, cut into 1-inch squares. Dust bottom and sides of each marshmallow by dipping into bowl of powdered sugar.  Alternatively, you can sift powdered sugar onto each square. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 weeks.