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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for December, 2011

PRODUCT: Crazy Cuizine Frozen Asian Entrées

Two of the seven Crazy Cuizine varieties.
Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

 

We live in a city where delivered food of every type is a way of life. Chinese food, sushi or Korean BBQ can arrive at our door in 30 minutes or less.

But in half that time, we can remove the Crazy Cuizine from the freezer and microwave our own.

Crazy Cuizine is a line of frozen Asian entrées—Chinese, Japanese and Korean dishes—that you can find at select Costco locations and BJ’s Wholesale Clubs nationwide, and at some regional chains.

About The Entrées

Ready to heat and eat, the line comprises sauced meat dishes—mostly chicken—that are high in protein and free of preservatives, trans fats and MSG.

The entrées can be microwaved in five minutes or less—one-quarter of the time it takes to microwave an appropriate amount of conventional rice. That a heaping plate of tender meat can be available in a few minutes is a great convenience.

 

Microwaving rice will take you 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the amount (smaller amounts take less time). Don’t spend the money on frozen, ready-to-microwave rice packages. They may save you 10 minutes, but it’s not worth the added expense. Here’s how to microwave conventional rice for pennies a portion.

 

What You Need To Add

While the line claims “authentic recipes,” some of the authenticity needs to be added.

  • Add seasonings. Neither the sauces nor the meats have secondary seasonings that create a complex flavor. They’re fine for kids—or adults who don’t have a demanding palate—but we like to think that even these two groups deserve to have more educated tastes. We added thin-sliced green onions, toasted sesame seeds, and herbs or spices: minced fresh garlic and/or ginger, or their dried cousins; fresh or dried jalapeño; and fresh basil (which is more Thai and Vietnamese, but works well, and we always have some).
  • Add vegetables. Amost all Asian dishes use them. We used what we always have in the house: broccoli, carrots, celery, mushrooms and onions—not necessarily all at the same time. If you have water chestnuts, bamboo shoots or baby corn, toss them in. We either steamed the veggies in the microwave for three minutes prior to making the rice, or sautéed them on the stove top while the rice cooks.
  •  

    Orange chicken is ready in five minutes. Photo courtesy Crazy Cuizine.

     

  • Assemble the dish. You can choose to heat the sauce packets with the veggies. We used a different technique: We heated the sauce before the meat; then added it to a bowl with the meat and veggies. Then toss to blend.
  • The ingredients are U.S.-sourced and the dishes are produced at the company’s state-of-the-art facility in Southern California. The chicken is all-natural white meat, and has very good chicken flavor. Some are sliced, some are breaded.

    The sauces tend to be adaptions of the same recipe, thick and slightly sweet. The choices include:

  • General Tso’s Chicken: The sweet and spicy, deep-fried chicken dish was invented in the U.S. and named after one of the greatest military leaders of China’s history, General Tso (1812-1885). This version fares well, if nowhere as hot and spicy as the real deal. The general’s name is correctly pronounced sow, not so or tso.
  • Korean BBQ Chicken: Our favorite. A delicious Korean dish featuring chicken breast topped with Korean BBQ spicy sauce.
  • Orange Chicken: Pretty good, but lacking the orange peel added to restaurant dishes. Add your own small strips of peel. We added green onions, too.
  • Potstickers, Chicken & Pork: The pork version is more flavorful. Both have the same excellent dipping sauce, made of soy sauce and vinegar.
  • Tangerine Beef: Not tasted.
  • Teriyaki Chicken: We weren’t crazy about this one. The sauce doesn’t resemble traditional teriyaki sauce, so the dish doesn’t resemble teriyaki—at least not the kind you’d get at a Japanese restaurant. It’s better to make your own: Thoroughly combine 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup mirin (rice wine) and 2 tablespoons sugar in a sauce pan; bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for two minutes. Cool to room temperature or slightly warmer. If you don’t have mirin, use 1/2 cup saké mixed with one tablespoon sugar. Both mirin and saké are types of rice wine.
  •  
    The 20-ounce boxes have a suggested retail price of $8.99.

    Given that we pay between $5.00 and $6.00 for an order of six poststickers, delivered or in-restaurant, the 28-30 pieces from Crazy Cuizine are a bargain.

    Learn more at DayLeeFoods.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Substitutes For Ham Hocks

    Lower cholesterol and salt by substituting
    smoked turkey for ham hocks (shown
    above). Photo courtesy CVSOP.com. Get the
    recipe for bean soup with ham hocks—or
    turkey.

     

    There’s nothing like a ham hock to add smoky flavor to hearty soups, bean and lentil dishes, stews, greens and other winter fare. The hock is the lower portion of a hog’s hind leg.

    But many people don’t eat ham, and many of those who do should cut back on cholesterol and salt.

    As we were preparing to make a 12-bean soup this weekend, we recalled a tip from Top Chef audience favorite Carla Hall: Use smoked turkey drumsticks instead of ham hocks.

    (If you want pork for your recipe but can’t find ham hocks, substitute two-to-four ounces per hock with: chopped bacon, guanciale [cured smoked hog jowl], cubed ham, chopped salt pork, a ham bone or smoked sausage.)

    Carla, a Nashville native, loves Southern food and eats lots of greens. To make them healthier, she uses smoked turkey instead of ham hocks, and adds Brussels sprouts—leaves separated—for extra nutrition.

     

    Another tip: Carla makes a healthy sweet potato mash with olive oil and orange zest.

    Things you don’t know about Carla Hall

    She’s a CPA! An alumna of Howard University’s School of Business, she worked for Price Waterhouse for two years. She then took a 180-degree turn and spent several years as a model on the runways of London, Milan and Paris. In Paris she fell in love with the art of food, and voilà!

    Know Your Pig Parts

    What’s the difference between a back rib and a spare rib? Pork belly and pancetta? American bacon and British bacon?

    Become a pig parts expert.
      

    Comments

    GIFT OF THE DAY: A Caddy Of Tea From Le Palais Des Thés

    Today’s gift recommendation is a line of fine loose teas in decorative caddies*, from a renowned French firm, Le Palais des Thés (luh pah-LAY day tay, “The Tea Palace”).

    The company was founded in 1986 by a group of French tea enthusiasts, who went into the tea business so they could have the freshest, highest-quality teas. In handsome packaging, the teas are sold worldwide.

    But before we dig in to the tea gifts, here’s a bit of tea history. (Don’t want history? Scroll down.)

    A Brief History Of Tea-Drinking In Europe

    England is known for tea-drinking; but it actually came late to the game. Tea was first introduced to Europe via Portugal.

    *A tea caddy is a small box, can, or chest for holding tea leaves.

     


    The des Songes, an oolong tea, in a
    festive red caddy. Photos courtesy Le Palais Des Thés.

     

    Portuguese traders visiting Asia brought tea back from China and Japan in the late 1500s. Tea was instantly popular among the Portuguese nobility, who had the means to buy the new luxury. Tea was served daily at 5:00 p.m., still a Portuguese tradition.

    The Portuguese infanta, Catherine of Braganza, married to England’s King Charles II in 1662, introduced† the custom of drinking tea to England.

    Tea was extremely costly for more than 100 years, due to rarity and taxes. It was kept in a locked chest to prevent pinching by servants and others. But after the 1750s, smuggled tea was widely available, reasonably-priced and purchased by respectable people.

    †Catherine also introduced the fork to the England. Amazingly, although it was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and the Roman legions occupied England, the fork took many centuries to make the leap.

     


    Thé des Moines, or Monks’ tea, is a blend of green and black teas created in a Tibetan monastery.

     

    In the 17th century, tea caddies were made from enameled metal, glass, porcelain and silver. From about 1725, in England, they began to be made of mahogany. Shaped like small chests, caddies held three metal canisters for tea. They became a home accessory: A genteel household had to have one.

    According to A Brief History Of Tea And Tea Caddies, the word caddy derives from the Malay kati, a measure of weight equal to about 3/5 of a kilo.

    And now, for your consideration, some delicious teas in lovely caddies:

    Le Palais De The: Gift Canisters Of Fine Tea

  • Fleur De Geisha. Inspired by the Japanese tradition of viewing the flowering cherry trees, Fleur de Geisha is an elegant Japanese green tea, delicately flavored with cherry blossoms. More information.
  •  

  • Thé Des Alizés. Alizés means “trade winds.” Here the trade winds bring a lovely green tea, flavored with white peach, kiwi and watermelon and enhanced with flower petals. More information.
  • Thé Du Hammam. A flowery green tea infused with berries, green date, orange flower water and rose petals, in a pale blue caddie. A hammam is a luxurious Turkish bath house. The blend evokes the fragrances used to perfume the hamman. More information.
  • Thé Des Lordes. The French term for Earl Grey Tea. The tea has a bergamot scent and flavor, with a visual addition of bright orange safflower petals. Charles Grey, 2nd Earl of Falloden and Foreign Secretary, received the gift of this specially scented and flavored tea for saving the life of the Chinese Mandarin. The earl became Prime Minister in 1830. More information.
  • Thé Des Moines. “Monk’s tea” is a blend of black and green teas, based on a recipe made by Tibetan monks. More information.
  • Thé Des Songes. This “tea of dreams” is a delicious oolong tea scented with flowers and exotic fruits. More information.
  • Thé Des Vahines Rooibos. Caffeine-free rooibos (roy-boss) tea is flavored with with vanilla and almond. A delicious dessert tea. Vahine is the Tahitian word for woman. More information.
  •  
    A canister (caddy), 4.4 ounces, is $25.00.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cook With All Five Senses

    Most people think that to be a good cook, you’ve got to have a good sense of taste. Of course, that’s true—but it’s just the starter.

    Taste. Taste is critical to make sure you have the proper balance and flavor in your dish. But you need to cook with all five senses.

    Sight. You also cook with your eyes. If you’re browning multiple pieces of beef of the grill, for example, some will naturally brown faster than others. Look for the pieces with nice color and turn them over; leave the other pieces until you are satisfied with their appearance.

    Hearing. Listen to the pan. If you’re browning meat and you don’t hear a sizzle, the pan is not hot enough, and you should remove the meat. On the other hand, if you’re sweating onions and you hear an aggressive hissing, your pan is too hot and you should lower the heat.

    Smell. If something smells like it’s starting to burn, it probably is. Adjust the flame accordingly.

     

    Learn how to touch a steak to see if it‘s done. Staub grilling pan available from Williams-Sonoma.

     

    Touch. You can test doneness of some foods with your fingers—meat and baked goods, for example. For cake, press your finger gently in the top center of the cake. If the indention springs back, the cake is done.

    Here’s the test for meat. It’s how professional chefs test for doneness. Work on your finger-test skills and you’ll have a valuable new kitchen technique—and a way to impress friends and family.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Peel & Crush Garlic

    Photo by Martin Walls | SXC.

     

    Peeling garlic can be messy business, especially if you do it in bulk.

    To remove the skin more quickly, simply remove the cloves from the bulb and soak them in water for a few minutes.

    Then, cut off the root end, or smash it with the flat of your knife. The skin should slide off much more easily.

    Now, you’re ready to crush the cloves. Just use the flat part of a large knife.

    If loud smashing is more your style, lay your soaked garlic cloves on a cutting board. Place another cutting board on top and crush away.

    Feel free to use a hammer on plastic cutting boards. Like hitting a golf ball, it’s very cathartic.

     

    Love Garlic?

    Try Garlic Valley Farms’ garlic juice spray. It’s amazing: You can spray fresh garlic flavor onto anything (burgers, eggs, salads, vegetables—you name it).

    The flavor is in the juice, not the clove. Each bottle contains the juice of 150 cloves (1000 sprays). It‘s gluten-free and kosher. Get some.

      

    Comments

    GIFT OF THE DAY: Habanero Caramels

    Anyone who loves caramels and a little heat will shout yippee! after one bite of Buckin’ HOT Habanero Caramels from Cowgirl Chocolates.

    One of the most memorable caramels we’ve ever had (our first bite was back in 2007), they sizzle without taking out your taste buds.

    A wonderful combination of chewy, buttery caramel and habanero heat, the reusable gift tin is $19.00.
     
    Send them to someone special!

    What is caramel and the history of caramel candy.
     
     

     

    Luscious habanero caramels from Cowgirl Chocolates. Photo by Michael Steele | THE NIBBLE.

     

      

    Comments

    ENTERTAINING: Delectable Crab Cakes & Crab Balls

    Crab balls are delicious with beer, wine and
    sparkling wine. Photo courtesy Jakes Crab
    Shack.

     

    In 2002, chef Chris Brandl opened a restaurant on the New Jersey shore. The cuisine is fine American fare, including wild boar chops, grilled chicken Caesar salad and his signature crab cakes.

    The demand for crab cakes resulted in a casual restaurant, Jakes Crab Shack,* with crab cake sandwiches, Kobe beef burgers and lobster rolls. Keeping with food trends, there’s also a traveling food truck dishing up crab cake sandwiches.

    *No write-ins from the editing police are needed: There’s no
    apostrophe in Jakes.

    Now, Jakes Crab Shack has gone retail.

    Folks who can’t get to Belmar, New Jersey (south of Asbury Park) can get the delicious crab cakes and crab balls online, in packages of 24 one-ounce crab balls or six four-ounce crab cakes (both $42.00).

    We love the crab balls for entertaining: they fit in with both casual or elegant fare, and are light enough to be enjoyed as an appetizer without filling up your guests. Serve them with sparkling wine (or beer, or any wine or sparkling water).

     

    We also like to use crab balls to top a salad. Or, serve a trio of crab balls (or one crab cake) garnished with some greens, as a first course with your choice of cocktail sauce. For elegance, we prefer a mixture of mayonnaise, pickle relish and Dijon mustard to the red ketchup/horseradish sauce.

    Treat your guests to some! Learn more at BrandlRestaurant.com.

    Do You Know The Different Types Of Crab?

    Here’s all you need to know about crab, including which type of crab meat to use for what recipes, and the different species.

    Make your own crab cakes with this recipe. Also try the crab cheesecake—a great hors d’oeuvre or first course.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Candy Cane Cocktail Garnish

    Here’s an easy and festive way to garnish holiday drinks: with small candy canes.

    Peppermint lovers can add a hint of mint to their libations.

    The mint flavor works with many cocktails, soft drinks, tea, coffee and hot chocolate.

    We hang them on a Vodka Martini, Chocolate Martini, Espresso Martini, Cosmopolitan, Irish Coffee, Mojito and other favorites.

    Or, you can crack the candy canes into chips (in a plastic bag, using a rolling pin or hammer) and sprinkle the garnish atop the Chocolate and Coffee Martinis or Irish Coffee.

    Deck the drinks!
     
     
    Find more of our favorite holiday drink recipes
    in our Cocktails Section.

     

    Hang a candy cane on a holiday drink. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

      

    Comments

    GIFT OF THE DAY: Moravian Spice Cookies

    Delicious, either plain or chocolate-dipped
    (above). Photo by Jaclyn Nussbaum | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    An elegant gift, stocking-stuffer or treat for guests (serve them with tea, coffee and/or ice cream), we love ultra-thin Moravian cookies.

    Beyond the luscious flavor, the thinness means fewer calories per cookie (in other words, two for the calories of one).

    Moravian Cookies History
    Moravian cookies are a rolled cookie that was introduced to Colonial American by communities of the Moravian Church. The recipe originated centuries ago in the kingdom of Moravia, located in what is now the Czech Republic.

    Moravian cookies deserve the title “wafer-thin”; they are the thinnest cookies to be found. The dough is rolled to an almost-transparent thickness; the baked cookies are very fragile.

    Original recipes have been traced back to the 18th century. While some bakers still make them by hand, most are factory-made to keep up with demand. Perhaps surprisingly, the factory-made cookies are thicker than the handmade ones (to help guard against breakage).

     

    While Moravian cookies are made in a variety of flavors today (cranberry, chocolate, lemon, pumpkin, walnut and so forth), the original spices-and-molasses recipe is related to German Lebkuchen (gingerbread).

    Salem Bakery’s Ginger Spice Moravian Cookies are made with the finest ginger, cloves and other exotic spices. The chocolate-dipped version is dipped on one side in rich artisan chocolate.

    The regular spice cookies are just great; but the chocolate-dipped ones move you a little closer to heaven.

  • Check out the chocolate-dipped cookies.
  • See all the flavors of Moravian cookies.
  •  
    Love Cookies?

    Check out our beautiful Cookie Glossary.

      

    Comments

    COCKTAIL RECIPE: Eggnog White Russian

    The White Russian, a combination of coffee liqueur, vodka and heavy cream, has been popular since it appeared in 1949. Leave out the cream and you’ve got a coffee-colored Black Russian. The recipes* are not Russian in origin, but were named in the spirit of the primary ingredient, vodka.

    *For a Black Russian, mix 1 ounce of coffee liqueur and 1.5 ounces vodka, and serve on the rocks. For a White Russian, add one ounce heavy cream.

    As with almost every cocktail, there are numerous riffs on the original, including:

  • The Blind Russian, made with Baileys Irish Cream instead of heavy cream;
  • A White Mexican, made with horchata instead of cream;
  • A White Cuban, made with rum instead of vodka;
  • A White Indian, made with gin instead of vodka.
     
    According to Wikipedia, there’s even an Anna Kournikova, a lowfat White Russian made with nonfat milk.

  •  

    Celebrate the holidays with an Eggnog
    White Russian. Photo courtesy Warwick Hotel.

    But for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, try an Eggnog White Russian, which we discovered at Randolph’s† Bar & Lounge in the Warwick Hotel, New York City.

    †The historic hotel, in midtown near Central Park, Fifth Avenue shopping, Rockefeller Center and the Theatre District, was built by William Randolph Hearst.

    EGGNOG WHITE RUSSIAN RECIPE

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 1 ounce coffee liqueur (Illy, Kahlúa, Starbucks, Tia Maria or whatever you have)
  • 1.5 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces eggnog
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: a grind of fresh nutmeg
  •  
    Preparation
    1. Pour coffee liqueur, vodka and eggnog into a shaker filled with ice.
    2. Shake and strain into a rocks glass.
    3. Top with a grind of fresh nutmeg. (Forget those maraschino cherries in the photo—and the candy cane, too.)

    Some people like to float the cream/eggnog on top of the spirits to make a more arty White Russian. We prefer ours shaken, not layered or stirred.

      

    Comments

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