What noodles?

by Nancy on April 20, 2011

During a trip to Washington State, Peter’s sister-in-law, Mai, prepared a delicious Vietnamese-style noodle dish.  It left such an impression that Nancy requested it during her next visit, and made sure to get the recipe as well.  Mai invented this dish and hadn’t gotten around to naming it yet.  Since her maiden name is Quach (pronounced what), Peter mischievously suggested calling them Quach Noodles.

Ronald Reagon and James Watt

Most of the ingredients can be found in a typical grocery store.  However, for the meatballs, Mai mixed in a blend of shitake mushrooms and black fungus, but Nancy is less of a mushroom fan and we only used black fungus.  You’ll need to look in an Asian grocery for that.  As for noodles, you can experiment with various rice noodles.  We really like the small sized Jiangxi rice vermicelli noodles.  This article describes what you are looking for: http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2009/04/vietnamese-noodles-101-bun-rice-noodles.html

So without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Rice Noodles with Chicken and Meatballs

Whole Chicken (4 lbs)
1 Yellow Onion, peeled and cut in half
16 cups water
2 Tb salt
2 tsp sugar

2 lbs. ground turkey (or pork)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ oz dried black fungus, shredded
1 bunch cilantro, divided.

1 package of rice noodles (such as Jiangxi Rice Vermicelli Noodles)
Lime wedges
Chili sauce (such as Sriracha or Sambal Oelek)

In an 8-qt stockpot, combine chicken, onion, water, salt and sugar.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for two hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs.  Soak the dried black fungus in water for a minute, then drain.   (If you cannot find shredded fungus, buy the whole black fungus and crush them with a mortar and pestle into fine pieces.)  Mix with the ground turkey, 2 teaspoons salt, black pepper, and ¼ cup of chopped cilantro.  Form into meatballs using a rounded teaspoon to yield about 60 meatballs.

Remove chicken and onion from the stockpot.  Discard skin, bones and onion; shred the remaining chicken meat.  Bring broth to a boil and add the meatballs.  Cook meatballs at a low boil for 10 minutes; check for doneness by cutting a meatball to ensure that there is no pink meat left.

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions.  Divide rice noodles into bowls, top with shredded chicken, then ladle on broth and meatballs.  Garnish with remaining cilantro; add lime and/or chili sauce as desired.

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Cake balls

by Nancy on April 6, 2011

[The following is Peter blogging under Nancy's account. Or, as she puts it, hijacking her account.]

Recently over lunch, one of our guests from Northern Carolina brought up cake balls. Apparently, these ingenious confections became a huge craze that spread across the South like kudzu, only tastier. Our interest piqued, my darling bride and I wasted no time reading up about them on the internet. After studious research, we decided to try our hands at making our own. Mind you, this endeavor was purely to lend us credence should the topic ever arise again in polite conversation. If obtaining such credibility involved stuffing our faces with chocolate-dipped wads of cake and frosting, so be it.

Foremost in our deliberations: which flavor to try? Or, at the very least, which flavor to try first? Faster than you can say “bipartisanship”, we reached an accord: strawberry. But what to dip it in? White or chocolate? We shelved that discussion until we at least had the filling baked, mixed, and in the fridge.

All of the ingredients are easily obtained from your friendly neighborhood Walmart, though their melon ballers, at 2″ across, are far too large. We found that a half-tablespoon brought us closest to the 1.25″ recommended by The Cake Ball Company. Speaking of which, who would have imagined that Texas–land of the big and the brash–would be home to such a dainty and whimsical party treat? All I know is, if I lived within a hundred miles of The Cake Ball Company’s Dallas headquarters, I would most assuredly be bigger, though in the wrong dimension. Hollywood got it wrong; Satan is not a high-powered Manhattan lawyer trying to corrupt Keanu Reeves. Rather, the prince of darkness runs a Texas bakery peddling $3 cake balls in the Neiman Marcus catalog, preying upon hapless 30-something physicians trying to keep their waistlines within Air Force regulations. But I digress…

The ratio of frosting to cake mix can be adjusted as desired. We went the easy route and combined a full 16-oz. tub with the finished product of an 18.25-oz. cake mix box. (“What,” reasoned my wife, “would we do with any leftover frosting?”) The result certainly shapes easily, though at the expense of the cake’s airy lightness. It’s almost too rich and sweet. My advice: start with just 3/4 of a tub and gradually add more as needed.

The instructions say to freeze the balls for 6 hours, but warned that over-freezing would subsequently cause the coating to crack. At this point, we faced a dilemma because the 6 hour mark fell somewhere between midnight and half-past-don’t-wake-me-up. So we avoided the freezer and plunked ‘em in the fridge.

The next afternoon, we pulled the tray from the refrigerator. Toothpicks proved useful for skewering and dipping. Yes, they leave a pinhole defect in the dome, but spare us from having to drop $4.50 on a two-tine candy-dipping fork. Speaking of drop, an entire 24-oz. package of almond bark proved insufficient and left us with half-a-dozen unglazed cake balls. Perhaps adding a teaspoon of vegetable oil to the melted bark would have stretched it. Oh well, c’est la vie.

This blog is about making dinner more delightful, and these fun little cake balls can certainly do just that.

Informative link: http://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/food/latest-recipes/20100614-bite-size-cake-balls-are-popular-new-treat-with-home-cooks-bakeries.ece

Recipe:
Cake mix, 18.25 oz box
Frosting, 16 oz tub
Almond bark, 24 oz package
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Prepare cake mix per instructions and bake in a 9×13″ pan. While warm, crumble into a bowel and mix in the frosting. (Tip: start with 3/4 of the frosting and add more as desired). Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours. Shape into balls, about 1.25″ in diameter, and either freeze for 6 hours or refrigerate overnight.

Melt almond bark in a double boiler. (Alternatively, melt in microwave, stirring every 15 seconds.) Dip balls into melted bark and set on waxed paper to cool.  Leftovers (if any) should be kept in the refrigerator.

Update: We read the instructions of the almond bark and it said to use a tablespoon of vegetable shortening (not oil) to thin for dipping.  The difference is amazing; the shell of almond bark is thinner and crunchier.

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