Thursday, February 8, 2018

Huevos Rancheros | 墨西哥農場煎蛋早餐

For many people, a particular dish brings memories or harbors significant emotions. It could be your mom's hand wrapped dumplings, the ramen that you subsisted on during late-night college days, or even Jagerbombs (just the thought of it makes my insides turn - I will spare you on the details).

I remember my very first taste of huevos rancheros, a humble, staple Mexican desayuno freshly cooked up in a community kitchen where we started our days volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in an impoverished neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

That was now nearly fifteen years ago, I then a more rotund college Junior, criminally misinformed and ignorant about Mexican cuisine after years of cattle-feeding on soupy enchiladas and goopy "salsa" poured out from factory-sized tubs a.k.a. high school lunch grub. These huevos rancheros were vibrant in color, the frijoles refritos soul-warming, the sunny-side-up perfectly crisped on the edges, the spicy red salsa fresh and well-balanced, and the tortilla underneath them all golden and crunchy. It had me asking for more. It was something I have never had before. A moment of revelation, a culinary discovery. Had I have a smartphone back then (those were the days before terms like selfies and food porn came to be), I would have most likely snapped one too many photos. Fortunately, the memories and experience live on. I can still recall the face of the lady who lovingly prepared and served us meals, her painted, arched eyebrows, her wide smile, and warmhearted hospitality.

Fire-roasted tomatoes for maximum flavor
Fifteen years later, I finally put this itch to rest. I have been procrastinating for too long to revisit this memory. And thus I picked up a few things from the groceries on my recent layover in Los Angeles, scoured through my pantry, invited a dear friend over to be my guinea pig, and made huevos rancheros.

Huevos rancheros - "rancher's-style" eggs - are basically eggs served on a corn tortilla with a spicy tomato-chili salsa - a simple, stress-free, quick affair with minor variations in accompaniments across different households and regions. I like mine served with refried black beans ('coz why not?) for extra fiber and dimension, just like how I remembered. The tortilla can be either crunchy fried (more like a tostada) or lightly charred according to preference, so long it holds the wet sauce without disintegrating into mush.

Chile Guajillo, adds depth and smokiness
For the recipe, I base mine mostly on J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's from Serious Eats. For the red sauce, make use of tinned tomatoes to make your life easy - if you can find fire-roasted tomatoes in a can, all the better. I followed his suggestions and tossed in toasted Mexican dried chilies (I happen to have dried Guajillo chilies sitting in the back of my cramped pantry) for extra depth and smokiness. Substitute with Chinese dried chilies or crushed red pepper if unavailable. To finish the dish, top with crumbled cheese, cilantro, avocado, sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh jalapeños and add a side of Mexican street corn as desired.

A fiesta for the eyes, a party for your tastebuds!
What you'll need...
1 medium onion, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1-2 whole dried Mexican chilies (ancho, guajillo, or morita)*
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14 oz. (400 g) can crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
2 whole chipotle chilies packed in adobo from can
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, stem and leaves, plus more for serving
Squeeze of lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Fresh corn tortillas
Canned or homemade black or pinto refried beans, heated, for serving
Crumbled Cotija cheese^, for serving
Avocado, for serving (optional)
Sliced cherry tomatoes, for serving (optional)

* If not available, substitute with Chinese dried chilies or crushed red pepper flakes.
^ I used crumbled queso fresco. If neither are available, substitute with crumbled feta cheese.


1. Trim tops off the dried chilies and discard seeds. Pop into microwave and heat on High for 15 minutes until softened and fragrant. Snip into thin strips and set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, heat oil and add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add oregano, cumin, and chili strips and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add tomatoes and chipotle chilies with their sauce and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Puré mixture with an immersion blender or in a blender. Stir in cilantro, soy sauce, a squeeze lime, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

4. In a cast iron skillet or non-stick pan, heat oil and lightly fry corn tortillas one at a time, until lightly charred on each side but still pliable. Transfer to a paper towel to drain and stack them as you go. Cover with foil to keep warm.

5. Using the same skillet or separate pan, heat oil over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Fry eggs, using a spoon to baste the tops with hot oil as they cook in order to help set the upper whites while keeping the yolk completely runny. Fry until crisp on the bottom and edges and whites are set. Season with salt and pepper.

6. To serve, smear refried beans on each tortilla, top with a fried egg, and spoon salsa over the top, keeping the yolk exposed. Finish with a sprinkle of cotija cheese, sliced cherry tomatoes, and minced cilantro a Enjoy immediately. Buen provecho!



洋蔥  1 小個  切絲
蒜頭  3 瓣  剁碎
墨西哥乾辣椒  1 - 2 隻(ancho/guajillo/morita/或用一般辣椒乾代替)
乾奧勒岡  半 茶匙(墨西哥的品種最為理想)
小茴香粉  般茶匙
罐裝番茄  400 克(fire-roasted 的最為理想)
罐裝墨西哥 chipotle 辣椒 in adobe sauce  2 條
芫荽(剁碎)7 克
新鮮青檸汁  少量
生抽  1 湯匙

Cotija 芝士碎(或用 feta 芝士代替)
車厘茄  切片

1. 墨西哥乾辣椒先去頭去籽,放進微波爐以強波叮 15 秒至軟化和帶香。用剪刀把辣椒剪成絲,備用。

2. 小煲中落油炒香洋蔥和蒜頭,約 5 分鐘。加入乾辣椒絲、奧勒岡和小茴香粉,炒約 15 秒後再加入罐裝番茄和 chipotle 辣椒。煮開後轉小火加蓋燜煮 10 分鐘。

3. 用手持式攪拌捧或攪拌機把煲中食材打成蓉。拌入芫荽、生抽和青檸汁再作適當調味。備用。

4. 鑄鐵鍋或易潔鍋中落油把捲餅皮逐一煎至輕微焦香及軟中帶脆,並用錫紙保溫。

5. 煎太陽蛋。

6. 完成品製作步驟:煎好的捲餅皮上先塗上一層豆泥,然後放上一隻太陽蛋,再淋上番茄辣椒莎莎醬(不要完全覆蓋太陽蛋啊,特別是蛋黃啊!),最後撒上芝士碎、芫荽、車厘茄,牛油果和青檸角拌碟,完成!

[Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Honey Butter Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Wilted Baby Spinach | 蜜糖牛油烤蕃薯菠菜苗沙律

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, families across North America are reuniting and busy putting their final touches on the menu for the most significant celebration of the year. Sweet potatoes, yams, and pumpkins take center-stage in family kitchens far and wide alongside the requisite roasted turkey. Everywhere seems to hum with joy and the anticipation that this meaningful holiday brings.

Even though Thanksgiving may not be celebrated in Hong Kong, this could hardly deter me from injecting a dose of fall festivity into my kitchen. With just a handful of ingredients and no more than a few simple steps, the following recipe - adapted from Food Network host Robert Irvine's original - will surely warm up your day and have you scrambling for seconds.

Perfect as a side for a magnificent Thanksgiving spread, and no less stellar as a filling, nutritious meal on its own, this flavorsome roasted sweet potato dish trumps an ordinary mash or green salad. What's more? With so few steps and so little to wash, this dish might just be your answer when you have too much on your plate preparing for the Great Turkey Dinner.

What you'll need...
2 medium to large sweet potatoes, cleaned (peeling optional), cut into 1.5-inch cubes
Drizzle of vegetable oil, to toss and coat
Half a red onion, or 3 shallots, sliced
2 large handfuls of baby spinach
1 tablespoon honey
Small knob of butter* (less than 1 tablespoon)
Handful of pecans

*Note: Using quality butter makes a world of difference since the butter is the ingredient that brings together the entire dish. Or, add some flair with Whipped Maple Cinnamon Butter (recipe), and substitute honey with pure maple syrup!

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. In a large bowl, toss sweet potatoes in oil to coat. Place on baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes.

2. Remove briefly from oven and toss in the onions and pecans and continue to roast until potatoes are tender, approximately another 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, have the honey, butter, and baby spinach handy.

3. Transfer sweet potatoes to the same large bowl. While piping hot, drizzle honey over the potatoes and add in the butter, mixing well. Gently toss in spinach. The heat from the potatoes will wilt the greens.

4. Serve warm and drown in the heavenly aroma of roasted onions and honeyed, melting butter! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 


蕃薯  2  隻(可去皮、切成約 1.5 寸小塊)
食用油  少量
洋蔥  半個  或  乾蔥頭  3  個(切絲)
菠菜苗  400 克
蜜糖  1  湯匙
牛油  20  克
胡桃  適量

1. 預熱焗爐至 180C。
2. 將蕃薯置於大碗中,加入少量油並略為攪拌,然後放於烤盤上,焗 15 分鐘。
3. 十五分鐘後,拌入洋蔥和胡桃,繼續焗至蕃薯和洋蔥熟透,約 15-20 分鐘。
4. 將焗好的蕃薯和洋蔥取出並置於大碗中。趁熱加入蜜糖和牛油,攪勻,然後再拌入菠菜苗。熱力會把菠菜變得軟身。完成!

Adapted from Robert Irvine's recipe on Food Network
[Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Gluten-free Chicken Pot Pie with Cornbread Crust | 玉米派皮雞肉派 — 不含麩質

As I write, I have just completed my two intensive weeks working at Sweetpea Cafe, Hong Kong's only entirely gluten free patisserie serving up decadent cakes and healthy brunch classics. How it all happened was almost like a dream. Just a month ago my friend and I wandered the quaint backstreets of Central and walked into Sweetpea for an afternoon of cake, coffee, and conversation. I gawked at the cake display, started conversing with the friendly and bubbly owner Angel, took a bite of the delightfully fluffy Tiramisu cake, and it didn't take much else for me to fall in love with this place.

My eyes rested on the "We Are Hiring" sign. With my annual two-week leave just weeks away, the idea of hitching an interim job here at Sweetpea Cafe sprouted. I stayed up all night. The next thing I know, I texted Angel with my proposal in the morning, and she responded: "I'd say yes in a heartbeat!" BAM, the stars aligned. I dropped my original plans of a (rather expensive) cooking holiday in the rustic countryside of Brittany, France and landed a part time job working in a charming little patisserie in my hometown. Call it a working holiday or apprenticeship, it was a dream come true in every sense for me to work in a cafe, to experience the operations behind the scenes and to open my eyes to the harsh reality of running a business in Hong Kong.

The two weeks had gone by in a blink. My experience reminded me of the television show on one of the travel channels where the host ventures around the world to master a new skill in two days' time. My two weeks were no short of challenges, discoveries, failures, stress, laughter, and sense of achievement. To fully delineate my experience in today's entry would be nearly impossible, so I will leave it at that for now and draw our attention back to the yummy dish of the day... Chicken Pot Pie with Cornbread Crust - and it's gluten free!

Thanks to Sweetpea Cafe and my Toronto-based cousin whom I worship for her talents and stamina in everything she does, I have become increasingly interested in gluten-free cooking and diet. I began digging around in books and online and in groceries in the U.S. and decided to experiment a little. I even bribed my flatmate to haul a ton of assorted flours back from Toronto (where they are readily accessible and affordable) in efforts to create my own blend of gluten free flour.

What we have today is my all-time favorite, Chicken Pot Pie, topped with golden cornbread instead of the traditional shortcut pastry. It's like taking a baby step towards making gluten-free choices. The cornbread adds such a delectable crunch and flavor to the creamy filling that I am not so sure I miss the buttery pastry crust so much anymore! The following recipe is based on my Individual Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry Crust post from 2015 but is modified and improved. As for the crust, it's basically a cornbread baked on top of the filling, so it would work perfectly on its own any other time! This recipes produces a cornbread that has a perfect crumb - neither too dry nor too cakey!

What you'll need...
For the pie filling:
3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 - 3 ribs celery, diced
6 cremini mushrooms, stems intact, diced
3 tablespoons gluten-free flour blend (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup chicken broth (from cooking the chicken thighs)
1/2 cup warmed milk
Thyme, fresh or dried

For the Cornbread Crust:
1 cup gluten-free cornmeal
1 cup gluten-free flour blend (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preparing the Chicken Pot Pie Filling
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add bay leaf (and any unwanted vegetable trimmings) and chicken thighs and cook for 8 minutes. Turn heat off and leave chicken in the pot covered for another 5 minutes. Rinse chicken under the tap and let cool in refrigerator while prepping the other ingredients to allow for easier cubing. Reserve chicken broth.

2. Heat butter in a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and mushrooms until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Add flour and stir to combine with the vegetables, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup of broth and bring to a boil. On low heat, stir in warmed milk, cubed chicken, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and stir until mixture thickens.

Making the Cornbread Crust Topping

Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Whisk together dry ingredients, add milk, eggs and butter, mixing until just combined. Pour batter over pie filling and bake (line with baking tray to catch drips) for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm!

《玉米派皮雞肉派 — 不含麩質》

決意把個人最愛的 Chicken Pot Pie 研製出更健康的無麩質版本,

雞肉派 材料:
去皮去骨雞上髀肉  3 件
月桂葉  1 塊(可免)
牛油  1 湯匙
洋蔥  1 小隻
蒜頭  3 瓣  剁碎
甘筍  2 條  切粒
西芹  2-3 條  切粒
啡蘑菇  6 隻  切粒
不含麩質麵粉  3 湯匙
雞高湯  120 毫升
牛奶  120 毫升 用微波爐叮暖
百里香  適量

1. 滾水加入月桂葉和雞肉,用中火煮 8 分鐘後熄火加蓋焗 5 分鐘。將雞肉取出洗淨並放進雪櫃片刻,以便稍後切粒。雞湯去油備用。
2. 鑄鐵鍋燒熱後加入牛油,炒香洋蔥、蒜頭、甘筍、西芹及蘑菇,約 5 分鐘。
3. 加入麵粉拌勻,約 1 分鍾。
4. 倒入 120 毫升雞高湯,拌勻並用中火煮至沸騰。
5. 將火收細,加入牛奶、雞肉粒和適量百里香及調味,待材料稍微呈糊狀後熄火備用。(假如沒有鑄鐵鍋的話,可將材料倒進適合焗爐的盤子內備用)

不含麩質玉米派皮 材料:
不含麩質玉米粉  150 克
不含麩質麵粉  120 克
砂糖  50 克
發酵粉  1 湯匙
幼鹽  半 茶匙
黃原膠  1/4 茶匙
雞蛋  2 隻
牛奶  240 毫升
牛油  30 克 溶掉

1. 焗爐預熱 180 度。
2. 把幹成分拌勻,拌入牛奶、雞蛋和牛油。
3. 拌勻後倒在鍋中的雞肉材料上,放入焗爐焗 25-30 分鐘,或知呈金黃色以及牙簽能夠乾淨拔出。慢用!

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