“Baked” Potato Spring Rolls: East Meets Southern Comfort Food

 Back in August, my beautiful friend/colleague Wendy and I got to work the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) convention.  We decided to celebrate a job well done afterwards by going to the Grand Lux Cafe to raise our blood sugar.  Wendy recommended that I try the Double Stuffed Potato Spring Rolls, which taste like a loaded baked potato wrapped in a crispy shell.  Five pounds more “voluptuous-looking” later, I decided to replicate this delectable dish in my own kitchen.  It was kid-tested and kid-approved, so if you have skinny children or an underweight niece who’s trying to get into the army like I do, this is the dish you need to make to fatten them up!  These not only taste great as party appetizers or part of a main dish, they are super simple to make.  With the holidays coming soon, you should give them a try!

Baked” Potato Spring Rolls:

-Makes about 12 spring rolls

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of mashed potatoes made from boiled potatoes, milk, salt. Don’t add any butter. Potatoes will be fried later.  
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt, more or less to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Package of spring roll wrappers (don’t use egg roll wrappers, which are thicker)
  • 1 egg, for sealing the spring roll wrappers
  • sour cream, 1-2 tablespoon dollop per 3 spring rolls
  • crispy bacon, chopped for garnish
  • green scallions or fresh chives, chopped for garnish
  • shredded cheddar cheese for garnish, or queso for topping
  • peanut oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Make the mashed potatoes. For roughly a dozen spring rolls, you will need 3 cups of mashed potatoes.  I can’t tell you how many potatoes to boil because it all depends on which variety and size of potato you decide to use.  Idaho or Yukon potatoes work well for this recipe.  When you make the mashed potatoes, just add milk/water and some salt and pepper to taste.  Add the garlic powder.  Make the potatoes fluffy.  Don’t make them too soggy.  You can also add shredded cheese to this mixture, or anything else you might want to add to the filling.  After all, everything tastes good fried, right?  I made it as simply as possible because 2 of my kids don’t like cheese, so I kept it to sprinkle on top of the spring rolls for later.
Make simple plain mashed potatoes, or add other flavorings you may want in your spring rolls.

2.  Cook the bacon to a crisp. You can make as little or as much as you care to sprinkle on top of your potato spring rolls, or you can even incorporate into the filling.  I like to cook mine in the toaster oven until they turn an even golden brown.  Crumble the cooked bacon.

3.  Remove the spring roll wrappers from the packaging.  If they were frozen, thaw them out at room temperature until pliable.  These wrappers are thin, so when you separate the layers, be careful not to tear the sheets.

4.  Crack an egg into a small bowl.  Be sure not to break up the yolk.  We will be using the egg white part only.  In my video that follows, I had to use the yolks because I had used up the whites for macarons earlier in the day.  We want to use egg whites because they are colorless.  Nothing wrong with using the yolks as a wrapper sealer, just that it will make the wrapper have dark yellow splotches.  

5.  Now it’s time to start rolling our potato spring rolls!  Please watch the video below to see how to roll:

6.  While you are rolling your rolls, heat up the peanut oil in your fryer to 350 degrees.  You can also use a deep pan of oil if you don’t have a fryer.  Just be sure to turn the rolls often and don’t let the oil overheat.  When you have finished rolling, place 6 spring rolls into the fryer.  Do not overcrowd.  Fry for about 10 minutes, or until crispy golden light brown color.

7.   Cut the spring rolls into halves, lay them on a plate, sprinkle with cheddar cheese, chives/scallions, crumbled bacon, and add a dollop of sour cream.  The cheddar cheese can also be substituted with melted cheese sauce or queso.  There you have it!  Enjoy!


2 Delicious Ways to Cook Geoduck Clam: Sashimi and Crispy Fritters

Please get your head out of the gutter before we proceed.  Just kidding.  But really, were you thinking, “OMG! What on earth is she holding and why?!”  ๐Ÿ™‚

Well, for those of you that aren’t familiar with this obscene-looking creature, it is known as a geoduck.  Despite the spelling, which may seem rather counterintuitive, geoduck is actually pronounced “gooey-duck,” a Lushootseed (Native American) word meaning “dig deep.”  This member of the clam family is also known as King Clam because it is the largest burrowing clam in the world.  Geoducks are found only in the American Pacific Northwest and in Western Canada.  They are long-lived (that is, unless I eat them), averaging 146 years.  They are the clams that America actually exports to China and Japan.  

    If you like eating clams and oysters, then you will enjoy the taste of geoduck, which is by far sweeter and richer than any other variety.  The siphon (neck) has a delicate, crunchy texture, while the mantle (body situated in the shell) resembles the taste of oysters when fried.  Asian cuisine not only focuses on the taste of foods, but also the texture.  Thus, when you go to an authentic Chinese restaurant (not Pei Wei), you will see such items as sea cucumber and jellyfish on the menu.  All these seemingly strange things are considered delicacies to be enjoyed for special occasions, such as weddings.

    Speaking of special occasions, my brother-in-law invited my husband and I to go blow his newly deposited bonus check on geoduck at a local Chinese restaurant a few weeks ago.  Looking at the menu, the going rate of geoduck was $42/pound.  He wanted the 4 pounder that day.  I looked at him with beads of sweat forming on my forehead.  Then I politely confirmed he was paying for the meal.  I thought to myself, “why in the world would anyone want to spend $168 on a darn clam?” Then the clam came out, all fancied up in 2 separate dishes– one was geoduck sashimi, and the other was fried geoduck fritters.  Oh heavens!  It was beyond amazing!  And $350 later, we went home.  He spent his bonus check, and we were all happy and full.

    So the moral of that story if there is one is this, try geoduck if you have the opportunity, but get someone else to pay.  I’m kidding again.  But seriously, try geoduck, but there is a way to eat it without having to spend $168 on a clam.  If you live in the bigger cities with a Chinatown, most of these places will carry geoducks live in aquariums.  Although still pricey, its definitely not $42/pound. 

I was able to buy geoduck here in Houston for $14.99/pound.  For a 3-pounder, it only cost me $45–a fraction of what the restaurant would’ve charged.  

    So with this geoduck, I will be showing everyone how to make geoduck sashimi, as well as crispy geoduck fritters.  Ready?  Let’s do this!

Geoduck Sashimi:

  • Pot of water
  • whole geoduck, rinsed clean
  • 3-inch knob of fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ice water bath
  • sharp knife

1.  Fill a pot big enough to fit the geoduck in with enough water to cover.  Clean and cut a 3-inch knob of ginger into slices.  No need to peel the ginger, unless you’re OCD.  The slices can be any size or shape because they will be discarded afterwards.  The ginger serves to take away any fishy smell/ taste from the clam.  Place the ginger slices into the pot of water.

2.  Bring the pot of water with the ginger slices to a rolling boil.  Add kosher salt.  Place the whole geoduck into the boiling water and blanch it for exactly 20 seconds. Any longer than this, and you will find yourself gnawing on what resembles the consistency of rubber bands.  Not appetizing.  Believe me, I’ve eaten rubber bands as a child, but that’s another story for another day.

3.  After 20 seconds, remove the geoduck from the boiling water and place into the ice bath.  This will stop the geoduck from cooking any further.  When geoduck is cool to the touch, remove from the ice bath and place the geoduck onto a cutting board.

4.  Pry open the shell and remove the geoduck in its entirety to reveal the mantle (the body).  With a sharp knife, separate the siphon (long neck) from the mantle.  There should be a demarcation where the firm neck meets the soft body.  Cut at that spot.  Set the mantle aside.  We will use that later to make fritters.  Place the siphon onto the cutting board.

5.  Now with your sharp knife, cut the neck into very thin slices against the grain in a diagonal fashion.  This will allow the sashimi to be crunchy, yet easily chewable.  Place the slices on a plate and sprinkle some fresh lemon juice on top if desired.  You can dip in soy sauce or a combo of soy/minced ginger or soy/wasabi for the best taste experience!

Crispy Geoduck Fritters:

  • Geoduck mantle (soft body inside the shell)
  • 1 beaten egg, mixed with 1 teaspoon water
  • Japanese panko crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Peanut oil for frying

1.  Before starting, remove the visceral ball from the mantle.  This is the golfball sized mass that sits inside the mantle.  Some chefs like to use it to sweeten up stocks, but I tend to just toss it.  Take the mantle and slice into 1/2″ to 1″ thick slices.  

2.  Pat the mantle slices dry with a paper towel, and proceed to place slices into the egg mixture.  Cover slices well with egg.  Season with salt and pepper.

3.  Place panko crumbs into a ziplock bag or paper bag.  Place mantle slices into the bag of crumbs and coat each slice well.  

4.  Heat oil to 375 degrees in a deep fryer or pot of oil.  Place slices into oil, working in small batches to prevent sticking.  Fry geoduck for about 2-3 minutes, or until panko is a light golden brown.  Drain fritters on paper towels and enjoy dipped in cocktail sauce or any dip of your choice.  These fritters taste very much like fried oysters!

    So now you know how to make both geoduck sashimi, as well as crispy fried geoduck fritters.  Not paying $168 here!  ๐Ÿ˜‰

L: Crispy Geoduck Fritters, R: Geoduck Sashimi

Crispy Fried Snapper with Sweet and Sour Tamarind Sauce

Beautiful morning from my home on the canal.

I look forward to days like today, when the coolness of autumn has set in, the sun is bright, the water is as smooth as silken tofu, and the fish are beginning to come closer inshore.  The Gulf of Mexico is abundant with marine life, and finding fresh seafood to prepare for each meal of the day has been a blessing for us.  One of the most abundant types of fish found here are snappers: red, lane, and mangrove, to name a few.  The federal red snapper season is now closed, but thankfully, we can still catch and keep snappers within Texas waters.  With the cooling temperatures, snappers tend to come closer inshore than in the summer months, so we don’t have to go out very far to catch them.

What I like to call a “silken tofu” sea –perfect conditions for offshore fishing!

As beautiful as they are to look at, snappers are not my favorite fish to eat because they tend to be coarse and dry if not prepared properly. Today, I want to add some pep to my snapper.  So we’ll be cooking Crispy Fried Snapper with Sweet and Sour Tamarind Sauce. 

**Disclaimer: Please note that the blue highlighted links in this post are affiliate links, in which I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase through those links. I have purchased all the products I recommend with my own funds and have tested and used each product before I post. Please know that I only recommend products that I trust and find valuable. Thank you for your support of my blog in this way!

Crispy Fried Snapper with Sweet and Sour Tamarind Sauce

Ingredients:

For the Fish:

  • 1 small to medium snapper of any kind, about 2 to 3 pounds (I am using mangrove snapper here)
  • Vinh Thuan crispy flour mix, or cornstarch for dredging 
  • Kosher salt 
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • large wok or deep fryer (my wok of choice is this model by Le Creuset)

For the Tamarind Sauce:

  • Tamarind concentrate, mixed with 1 cup water. (If there are seeds, remove seeds.) If using premade liquid tamarin
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (preferably 3 crabs brand or Red Boat)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp crispy fried shallots (optional, to enhance flavor)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced bell pepper

For the Garnish:

  • chopped green scallions
  • chopped cilantro

1.  If you are buying your fish, you can ask the fish monger to clean the fish for you.  You will need to have your fish descaled, gutted, and beheaded (unless you want the head on, as is normally the case in most other countries).  If you are cleaning your own catch, please do the same.  I like to clean my fish outdoors to keep the mess to a minimum, but when the weather is too hot or rainy, I tend to clean my fish indoors.  One way to keep the scales from flying everywhere when you descale fish inside is to fill your kitchen sink halfway with water, or enough to immerse your fish, and descale the fish keeping it submerged in the water. Be sure to have a screen mesh handy when it’s time to drain the sink, so that the scales don’t clog up your drain.

Add enough water to submerge your fish.
Descaling with fish submerged prevents scales flying everwhere.



2.  Once the fish has been cleaned, lay it on a cutting board, remove the head (optional) if you haven’t already, and make deep slits into the flesh, about 1 inch apart.  This is to help cook the fish quickly and thoroughly, and to help absorb all that delicious sauce we’re going to make later.

The beheading of Mr. Fish

3. Rub Kosher salt into the fish, about 2 teaspoons. Generously sprinkle the fish with frying mix or cornstarch. Don’t put on a heavy layer, but enough to lightly dredge the fish.

4.  Prepare the sweet and sour tamarind sauce.  For those of you who do not know what a tamarind is– it is a fruit that grows in tropical countries and has a tart, raisin-like taste.  Tamarinds are widely used in Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines.  Pour a cup of tamarind concentrate into a saucepan.  Add 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons fish sauce.  Mix well and heat the mixture up over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  At this point, you can taste the sauce to see if it needs any more sugar or fish sauce to your desired taste.  Stir in fried shallots (optional).  Set aside.

    In a separate pan, stir-fry the garlic, onions, and bell peppers until fragrant and tender.  Add that to the sauce and stir well.  You can also add in chili peppers if you want your sauce to be spicy, but since I’m cooking for small kids, I made mine mild.  Your sauce is now ready.

Tamarind fruit concentrate
Add in fish sauce and sugar.
Add fried shallots for more flavor (this can be homemade or store-bought at an Asian market).
Stir-fry garlic, onions, and peppers until fragrant and just tender.
Finished Sweet and Sour Tamarind Sauce

 5.  Heat peanut oil in a wok or deep fryer to 375 degrees.  Carefully place fish into the oil, being extremely careful not to splatter scalding oil on yourself. (I have many scars all over my arms from such oil splatters.)  I use long sturdy tongs or wear kitchen mittens.  Fry fish for 5 minutes on each side.  Do not over-cook, because snapper will be dry and coarse.  Drain fish on paper towels.

Fry the fish 5 minutes on each side.

Crispy fish is now ready to dress with tamarind sauce.
Tastes delicious with rice and salad!
My best critics approved of this dish whole-heartedly! ๐Ÿ™‚

Hope you get to try out my recipe one day. Wishing everyone a fun and relaxing weekend!

To watch my offshore adventure on the first day of Federal red snapper season 2019, please click on the link below:


How to Make Delicious Crispy Calamari Rings

Hi everyone! Welcome to my first blog post EVER!  Please forgive any grammatical mistakes or other blunders until I figure out what Iโ€™m actually doing. As I was going through old photos on my phone to get ideas about what I wanted to write for my first post, I came across some awesome fresh calamari shots from this past spring.  Since itโ€™s not the hardest thing in the world to cook, but still impressive enough to attempt, I decided to stick to making fried calamari for my first entry.  I realize not everyone likes squid, but please bear with me. There will be a wide variety of recipes in the future, I promise. ๐Ÿ™‚ If you decide not to use squid, you can still adopt some of the techniques and ingredients to use with other thingsโ€” shrimp or fish nuggets, for example.

One of my favorite appetizers to try when going out to eat is fried calamari when itโ€™s available. Personally, the way a restaurant prepares their calamari sets the tone for what I can expect of the rest of the meal. If itโ€™s boring and soggy, forget the meal, Iโ€™m out. I really like calamari that is bursting with flavor and seafood goodness, that is crispy but not greasy and overwhelmed with batter.  I think I finally came up with a delicious way to prepare calamari at home. My kids, as picky as they are, love eating these fried calamari rings, and I hope you and your family will, too. 

Me and my beautiful plate of fresh calamari that I found at the Asian seafood market! Fresh calamari should not smell overly fishy. Instead, it should smell like salty ocean water.

First, start off by buying the freshest calamari you can find. If it’s not available where you live, you can also use frozen calamari rings from the grocer. Here in the Gulf, we have access to great seafood most of the year. I went to the local Asian seafood market to purchase these beauties. When you purchase, they should smell like the salty sea, not too fishy. Their flesh should be firm and almost translucent.  When I went to Vietnam a couple years ago, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the harvest of calamari by village fisherman. They start off a clear blue color when taken out of the water and almost immediately turn reddish when landed. The taste of freshly caught calamari is just indescribably delectable!

Vietnamese fisherman in Vinh Hien province showing off his fresh catch of calamari.
Freshly caught calamari quickly changes color from a translucent blue to a translucent reddish purple.

Delicious Fried Calamari Rings Recipe:

(serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 large fresh squid, about 2 pounds. Or frozen calamari rings, thawed.
  • All-purpose seasoning mix (I like Badia Complete Seasoning or Slap Ya’ Mama Cajun Seasoning for spicy lovers)
  • 3 egg whites (the yolks make the batter heavier)
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • For the Chili Lime Dipping Sauce:  
  • 1/2 cup any brand Sweet Thai Chili Sauce (available in Asian section of grocery store)
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce,
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 clove finely minced garlic

1.  Clean the calamari by peeling off the dark outer membrane to expose the light flesh. Remove the eyes and the beak if you will be consuming the head.  Cut calamari into 1/2″ thick rings.

My older daughter is cleaning the calamari by peeling the outer dark membrane to reveal the white flesh underneath.
After the calamari is cleaned, it is sliced into rings. If the head is too big, you can separate the tentacles and cut the head into smaller pieces.  Make sure to remove the eyes and the “beak” (the hard mandibles or jaws). 

2.  Sprinkle complete seasoning on slices to taste and marinate calamari for about 30 minutes.

3.  I prefer using a deep fryer for consistent results, but you can use a large cast iron pot or pan if you don’t have a fryer. Heat the oil to 375 degrees F.

4. Whisk egg whites in a bowl.  In another bowl, mix together cornstarch, flour, pepper and salt.

5.  Dip the calamari rings into the egg whites, then toss into the cornstarch mixture to coat thoroughly.  Shake off excess breading.

6.  Fry the calamari in the hot oil in batches, being careful not to over-crowd the fryer. You want your calamari to by nice and crispy, not a sticky mess. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not over-cook, unless you intentionally want chewy and tough calamari. 

7.  Remove calamari rings from oil and place into a paper-towel-lined colander or plate. This will soak up the excess oil and keep your calamari crispier longer.

8.  Prepare dipping sauce by mixing all the sauce ingredients well with a spoon in a bowl.  Enjoy!

I hope you like this recipe.  Please feel free to share ideas and feedback.  Also, let me know how you like to prepare calamari?  Take care and talk to you soon!