Monday, October 23, 2017

Matzah Ball Pho

I wrote up my matzah ball pho recipe for The Nosher. Head over there to read the full article, and check out other great recipes :)

Matzo Ball Pho
Serves 6-8

For the broth:
2 medium unpeeled yellow onions, halved
1 large 4”-5” piece of ginger, cut in half lengthwise
5 quarts cold water
1 4-5 lb. chicken, cut into parts
½ lb. chicken wings
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon rock sugar or Turbinado (raw) sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
2 tablespoons fish sauce or tamari
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced

For the toppings:
1 large bunch of fresh Thai basil
2-3 limes cut into wedges
3 cups mung bean sprouts
2 Fresno chilies or jalapenos, sliced thin
Hoisin sauce, to taste
Sambal oelek (garlic chili sauce), to taste
Sriracha, to taste

For the matzo balls:
1 cup matzo meal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup oil schmaltz or oil (vegetable or safflower)
¼ cup minced scallion

For the broth:
Char your onions and ginger by either placing them on a baking sheet under a broiler for 8-10 minutes, or by charring them over a gas flame on your stovetop for a few minutes on each side. The onions and ginger should be nicely charred but still firm - this essential step will deepen the broth’s flavor. Once the onions and ginger are charred, remove the skin from the onion. Rinse the onion and ginger, and use a small knife to scrape off excess charred bits to prevent your broth from getting murky.

Cut your chicken into parts: separating the breasts, legs, wings, and backbone. This will insure that your chicken cooks evenly and that the breasts will not become dry and tough when simmered.  

In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the cinnamon, anise, and coriander until lightly browned and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the spices.

Add the onion, ginger, and chicken to a large pot. Fill the pot with 5 quarts of water. Bring the water to a simmer; skim the impurities as they rise to the top.

After twenty minutes of simmering, or once they’re cooked through, remove the chicken breasts and allow them to cool.

Add the toasted spices, salt, and sugar to the pot. Continue to gently simmer the mixture for 1 hour.

Remove the remaining chicken parts and strain the liquid through a fine meshed sieve. Bring the liquid back to a simmer for another 20-30 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by about a quarter. This step will further deepen the broth’s flavor. While the broth is simmering, shred the chicken meat and reserve for serving.

Once reduced, turn off the heat and add the fish sauce or tamari to the broth. Taste, and add additional seasoning if desired.

For the matzo balls:
While the soup is simmering, in a large bowl whisk together the matzo meal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the beaten egg and schmaltz/oil. Add the scallions. Mix everything together until just combined. Do not over-mix. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes, and up to a day ahead.

Form the matzo ball mixture into even-sized balls, you can determine the size based on your preference, but know that they will double in size when cooked. It makes it easier to form the matzo balls if you rub a little oil on your hands while forming them.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Lower to a simmer and gently drop the matzo balls into simmering water. Place the lid on the pot and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Once cooked, matzo balls are best stored in their cooking liquid.

To serve the matzo ball pho:
Add the shredded chicken, raw sliced onion and scallion to a bowl. Ladle hot broth into the bowl. Add the matzo balls to the soup.

Serve along with basil, bean sprouts, lime wedges, hoisin, and hot sauces. Allow people to garnish and customize their pho to their liking.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Vegan Maple Fig Rosemary Challah

I used to be afraid of baking, especially bread baking. I distanced myself from any recipe that required yeast or kneading. The idea that baking is a science, only accessible to those with the innate ability to understand that science and its nuances, discouraged me. I was never very good at science. But as someone that loves Jewish food, I knew I wanted to learn how to make homemade challah. The moment after I made my first challah I wondered: “What took me so long?”

Once I got into challah-baking I couldn’t stop. To my surprise, challah isn’t all that hard to make, the dough is very forgiving, and it comes together relatively quickly. There’s no three-day proofing required. I tried countless recipes, and decided I needed to develop one that would make my own ideal loaf. I like my challah with a little chew, not too yeast-flavored, not too sweet. Once I got a basic recipe down, it was easy to start playing around with flavors and ingredients.

During the High Holy days, when entertaining and round challahs abound, this recipe offers a celebratory animal-friendly offering. I love being able to make dishes that any guest at my table can eat, and it’s great to have an option for folks with plant-based diets. Vegan challah is as easy to make as egg-based challah, and tastes just as good. In these loaves, the maple replaces honey, and the fig and rosemary bring extra sweetness and fall flavor into the mix. If you’re not feeling fig and rosemary, you can easily skip out on either or both and still make a delicious vegan loaf.

If you’ve ever been curious about baking challah, Rosh Hashanah is a great time to give it a go.  I can safely predict that your friends and family will be very happy you did.

Vegan Maple Fig Rosemary Challah
Makes 2 loaves

2 cups warm water (between 105°F-110°F, warm but not too hot to the touch)
4½ teaspoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
⅓ cup oil (olive, canola, sunflower)
¼ cup maple syrup (Grade B or Grade A dark amber)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Egg replacer mixture (see below)
7½ cups (1185 g) bread flour, plus more for dusting and as needed
⅓ cup fig preserves or jam
⅓ cup roughly chopped rosemary, plus more for garnish

Egg replacer:
½ cup warm water
½ cup oil
2 tablespoons aluminum free baking powder

Vegan egg wash:
¼ cup unsweetened almond or soy milk
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons maple syrup

Start by adding the yeast and sugar to warm water. Stir, and then allow the yeast to activate for 5 minutes or until it looks thick and foamy at the top. If your yeast remains in clumps then it is not properly activated.

In a small bowl combine the oil, maple syrup and salt. Reserve.

In a separate small bowl, make the egg replacer mixture by combining the water, oil, and baking powder. The baking powder will cause the mixture to fizz.

Once the yeast is activated, add the flour to a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the maple syrup mixture and the egg replacer mixture to the well. Add the activated yeast with warm water to the well. Begin to combine everything together, it is easiest to use your hands. Once the mixture forms a ball, begin to knead the dough.

Knead until the dough is mostly smooth and elastic, and doesn’t stick to your hands, about 5-7 minutes (and if it’s not perfectly smooth, don’t worry, it will still work out). If you find the dough is too sticky, add flour a few tablespoons at a time until the dough doesn’t excessively stick to your hands as you knead. The amount of flour that is needed can often depend on the weather, temperature, and the brand of flour. 

Lightly grease a large bowl with oil, and then place the dough in the greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp clean kitchen towel, and allow the dough to rise in a warm (not drafty) part of the kitchen for at least 1 hour or until the dough has about doubled in size. The rate at which the dough rises will depend on the temperature of the kitchen.

After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Lightly dust your work surface with flour, and transfer the dough onto it. Divide the dough into two. Transfer half the dough back to the bowl and cover while you’re braiding the first round of challah. For the High Holidays it’s traditional to make round challahs, but the shape and number of strands is up to you. I like to do a 4-strand round challah, and this demo video from Challah Hub is very helpful!

Divide the dough into 4 evenish-sized pieces, and form and roll each piece out so that it is about 12”-14” long. Take one piece and flatten it out a little so that it is a long rectangular shape. Spread 2 teaspoons of the fig preserves in an even thin layer over the dough. Sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons of chopped rosemary. Press the sides together to seal the fig and rosemary inside the dough. It can be a little messy or imperfect. Finally, roll the sealed dough into a rope shape. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of dough.

Braid the challah into a round. Place the challah on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with a very lightly damp towel. Repeat the braiding process for the second half of the dough. Allow the covered braided loaves to rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a small dish, combine the almond milk, maple syrup, and oil. Brush each loaf of challah with the wash. Bake the challah loaves for 30-40 minutes, or until the challah is a deep golden brown - exact timing will depend on the size of your challah and your oven. Once baked and still hot, brush a second time with the wash mixture. Transfer to a rack and allow to cool.

Extra challah can be frozen, defrosted and reheated.