Mmmmortons!

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

DC and I had a special occasion to celebrate and celebrate we did! We dressed up and went to Morton’s for a blow out meal. The onion bread that started our dinner was an omen of things to come – see how huge it is? We only nibbled a  bit of the soft bread while waiting for the typical show and tell that the menu was about.

IMG_3924

Already being forewarned that we would eat until we couldn’t eat no more, we shared half a dozen fresh Pacific oysters ($36.50) to start. They were fresh and sweetly briney, going very well with just a squeeze of lemon juice and less well with the cocktail sauce and grated horseradish. The saltines – crackers in cellophane packets – were an inexplicable, yet totally American addition to the appetisers.

IMG_3927

Then came the mains. DC was rather restrained (!) and went for a 400g double cut filet mignon ($97). Sorry for the poor lighting in the picture, but look at how high the steak is. It was done nice and rare. While a very tender cut, it wasn’t the tastiest I’ve had. Perhaps in aging the meat, all the blood is drained out and a lot of the taste is gone. Either that, or my main stole the show.

IMG_3933

When the server showed us the live Maine lobster ($50 per lb) in the menu demonstration, I knew that I was destined to have it. It was 3.5 lbs and was baked in butter. They even gave me a bib so that I could get cracking! This was lobster like I’ve never had before. I never really understand why people like lobster so much, because I’m such a fan of the tender, sweet flavour of crab. This lobster was incredibly sweet, tasting of the sea. It was firm and full of flavour, needing only a dab of melted butter at first, then a squeeze of lemon as the richness of lobster and butter began to sate. The head bits were the richest parts of the lobster, and the best part was that it could be eaten with a spoon. The lobster was amazing, huge and way too much for me. I gave up after eating half the lobster tail and a chalky tasting claw (weakest link). DC had to help with the rest so that I could have room for dessert.

IMG_3937

We finished off the meal with a slice of key lime pie, compliments of the restaurant. The custard part was tart and incredibly sweet, for once the cream was an absolute must so as to cut through the sweetness of the filling. It was a fitting end to our calorie-laden and very American dinner.

IMG_3944

At Morton’s, the service is impeccable. People come here for celebrations and the staff do their best to make everyone feel like it’s a special treat. In fact, it seemed that half the restaurant was celebrating birthdays. For us, the staff went all out to make sure we were OK (three different staff, from the manager to our own server asked if the food was fine and that we were having a good time) and even printed out a menu with our names and a congratulatory message on it as a souvenir. As an overall experience, Morton’s, while terribly expensive, is worth the while, simply because you and the food are the stars for the night.

Morton’s
Mandarin Oriental Singapore
Fourth Storey
5 Raffles Avenue
Tel: +65 6339 3740

Advertisements

Yet Another Quick Pasta Dish – With Pan-Roasted Tomatoes

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I know I feature way too many pasta dishes, sorry. I don’t cook as much as I’d like and lately things have been crowding in. I’d love for an entire weekend of leisurely cooking at some point soon. In the mean time, this will have to suffice.

I like chicken baked in the oven plain and simple till the juices flow and the skin is crisp. Poured onto warm pasta, it makes a simple dish incredibly yummy. This time I thought I’d use some cherry tomatoes and roast them over low heat in a frying pan. Slip in some crushed garlic and the juices come out sweet and aromatic. Let the mixture cook slowly over low heat to intensify the juices while the pasta cooks. Pour in the chicken juices, toss in the asparagus spears at the last moment, then mix with the cooked pasta. Season with plenty of freshly grounded black pepper and sea salt and a great lunch is served.

IMG_3322

Here’s the recipe if you must.

Ingredients:

1 chicken leg, deboned
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
8 cherry tomatoes
enough pasta for one person, linguine perhaps
10 mini asparagus spears, cut into short lengths

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC.
  2. Separate the skin from the deboned chicken leg and lay each flat on a baking tray lined with aluminium foil, taking care that they are far apart enough that the juices stay away from the skin. This way the skin becomes nice and crisp. Bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is done. If the skin isn’t crisp yet, grill till it is.
  3. Let the chicken sit and cool so the juices ooze out.
  4. In the mean time, heat the olive oil gently in a frying pan and then sweat the garlic and tomatoes till just on the verge of brown. This takes a while, so be patient.
  5. Cook the pasta in plenty of salt water till al dente.
  6. When the pasta is just about ready, pour the chicken juices into the frying pan and turn up the heat. Toss in the asparagus and stir till just cooked, about 30 seconds.
  7. Now toss in the pasta and stir till the noodles are completely coated. Season well to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Turn onto plate, top with chicken and crispy skin and dig in!

Serves 1.

Disgruntled Chef

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

We were in the Dempsey area and wanted to try something new. Disgruntled Chef fit the bill. It’s a newish place opened by a chef formerly from the White Rabbit. I don’t know about you, but I’m not very sure about the name. Something that conjures up images of an unhappy chef spitting into my food is rather disturbing. Nonetheless, DC and I took the plunge and ordered four small plates and a big plate.

The first was a spinach salad with mirin and eggplant. Decent salad dressing but nasty eggplant that was cold and somehow hard and soggy at the same time. Overpriced and not very nice.

IMG_3213a

We were on a steak tartare streak and couldn’t resist going for it. Here, the steak tartare was pretty decent too. It was helped a lot by the very excellent fries, possibly the best in Singapore. I liked how they were just about chunky yet so crisp outside and incredibly fluffy inside. They went absurdly well with the steak tartare. What I didn’t really like about the tartare was how they used half cooked quail eggs in it. I didn’t quite appreciate the texture of the solid egg whites and felt that there wasn’t enough runny egg yolk to go round.

IMG_3216a

This was followed by the crackling suckling pig that neither of us found very special as the skin was only just crispy and still on the hard side. I don’t like it when the skin gets stuck in my molars from chewing at it for too long. Oh and the big plate of roasted miso cod was so forgettable we almost wept at how insipid it was. Don’t get me wrong, it was still competently executed. It was just that the dish simply had no soul. All I remember was that the centre of the fish had a strong alcohol smell from the sake marinade. Japanese obviously isn’t the chef’s forte.

IMG_3224a

We both agreed that the most inventive, and possibly the best, dish that evening was the baked bone marrow with persillade. I really liked the idea of marrow as pate. The chef did nothing to the marrow itself, leaving its unctuousness to be tempered with the persillade according to the whim of the diner. Trying to figure out how much parsley and garlic paste to match with the marrow was part of the fun of the dish. This is something we’d definitely return for.

IMG_3218a

The Disgruntled Chef
26B Dempsey Road
Tel: 6476 5305

Zucchini, Potato and Carrot Parmagiana

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I love zucchini and had some hanging around in the fridge asking to be used differently from the usual pan searing and anchovy pasta combination. Coupled with some old and on the verge of moldering potato and carrot, I flipped through my recipe books and found Antonio Carluccio‘s recipe for parmagiana. Since I had a bit of time, this was it!

You can use any sliceable vegetable for this, just make sure that they are well dried using paper towel before preparing them for the dish. For the cheese, I didn’t have any mozzarella, taleggio or the eponymous parmesan, so I settled with the cheddar I had. It’s a good melting cheese with very nice flavour, so it worked too. For the tomato sauce, I had a jar of pasta sauce from a while back that I again hadn’t got round to using.  Be warned that  the quality of the tomato sauce  is very important. Some of them can be quite tart, so you’ll have to taste and moderate if necessary by perhaps adding a little sugar, or plain using  a decent brand of sauce! I also had some aglio olio spice powder consisting of garlic, chilli and random herbs, so some of that went into the dish too. It all worked out to be a happy use of leftovers to make a yummy, satisfying dish.

IMG_3194

Ingredients:

2 large zucchini
2 medium carrots
2 large potatoes

1 jar tomato pasta sauce

4 rashers bacon, diced
plenty of olive oil
flour for dredging, about 4 heaped tbsp
3 eggs, beaten

150g cheese, thinly sliced or grated

Method:

  1. Slice the vegetables into long slices, as far lengthwise as you can. You’re looking for long, fairly thin slices of vegetables, about 5mm thickness for the root vegetables. For the zucchini, it can go a bit thicker depending on whether you like to bite into mushy zucchini goodness or prefer less of the mushy burst. Pack the slices into paper towels and leave to dry for about an hour or until you get back round to them.
  2. Meanwhile, get out a big casserole dish that looks like it could fit all the vegetable slices and more. Spoon out a thin layer of pasta sauce and coat the bottom of the  dish.
  3. In a sturdy frying pan, saute the bacon dice in a little olive oil till brown. Sprinkle on top of the pasta sauce layer.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  5. Add some salt and pepper to the flour and mix well. Standby the beaten eggs.
  6. In the same frying pan, add plenty of olive oil till the bottom of the pan is coated. Get ready to fry over medium heat.
  7. Dredge each vegetable slice in the seasoned flour, then coat with egg. Let drip till most of the egg has dripped off, then fry, turning each piece as it turns golden brown.
  8. When golden brown on both sides, transfer each piece to the casserole dish.
  9. When a layer of vegetables has completely covered the pasta sauce, spoon over more sauce for the next layer and also sandwich in a few slices of cheese.
  10. Proceed till you’ve exhausted all the vegetables and cover with a final layer of pasta sauce, topping generously with cheese.
  11. Bake for 30 minutes, turning down the temperature slightly if the cheese starts to burn.
  12. After removing from the oven, let rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Serves 6.

Stuffed Chicken Wings

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I’d not cooked for a while. It was high time I dusted off some of the old recipes percolating inside my head and update them. One of them was this recipe for stuffed chicken wings. I last made them yonks ago back in my university days and never since had the time nor inclination to make them again.

IMG_2515

The chicken wings are made by taking the wing part and removing the two little bones inside, keeping the skin and meat pretty much intact. Then the cavity is stuffed with an aromatic minced meat mixture and the wings baked till golden all over. Sounds simple to do, but the deboning bit can be very tedious. The trick is patience and taking it slowly by popping the bones out of the joint and slowly cutting the meat off the bones with a pair of kitchen scissors. After getting the knack of one, the rest are easy. Still, it took me about half an hour to finish deboning 10 of these little fellas.

For the filling, I tried to add a bit of Thai flavour by adding kaffir lime leaves and coriander. I’d imagine variations along the lines of adding water chestnut and cloud ear mushrooms for a more Chinese flavour. Or using curry powder and cooked potato for a slightly more local Malay-Indian touch. Try it and go crazy with the variations!

IMG_2514

Ingredients:

200g minced pork
¼ bundle tanghoon, soaked and cut into short lengths
2 dried mushrooms, soaked and chopped fine
1 bunch coriander, chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves, sliced very fine
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp corn flour
1 tsp chopped chilli, optional
10 chicken wingsticks, deboned

glaze
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
  2. Combine the stuffing ingredients and mix well.
  3. Stuff into the chicken wings and round off the top, being careful to push all the ends of the tanghoon into the meat mixture. This stops it from drying out and burning in the oven.
  4. Combine the glaze mixture and stir till the sugar dissolves. Paint over the mixture on the wings and, if using, the drumlets.
  5. Place onto a foil-lined baking tray and bake for 30 minutes, turning half way through, till golden brown.
  6. Serve with a squeeze of lime on top.

Makes 10.

    Self-Saucing Pineapple and Passionfruit Crumble

    Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

    I had this for a very decadent breakfast and I need to tell you how gorgeous it is. I love crumble, I like passionfruit and I adore custard. The problem with crumble and custard is that the custard is an extra fiddly step and is also incredibly fattening. For the record, I am a crumble Nazi and it’s against the law to eat crumble with ice cream. Unless it’s an incredibly hot day and you’re in Singapore. Sigh.

    Nigella gave me some inspiration with her self-saucing gooseberry crumble recipe. I had passionfruit and pineapple, and everything just clicked into place. The gula melaka was a logical sweetener to keep to the tropical theme.

    Why crumble for breakfast? Mum used to make apricot crumble for breakfast on weekends when we lived in Germany. It is such a comforting childhood memory. Also, a friend of mine claimed that passionfruit taken at night makes for a poor night’s sleep, so I make sure I only take passionfruit in the morning. It’s a silly superstitution I know, but humour me here.

    dscf4247

    Ingredients:
    120 g butter, frozen
    200 g plain flour, frozen
    3 tbsp sugar

    1 passionfruit
    ¼ small pineapple, chunked
    2 tsp gula melaka
    1 egg yolk
    4 tbsp cream

    dscf4254

    Method:

    1. Remove the butter and flour from the freezer. Cut the butter into slices, then bits and using your fingers, rub it into the flour. You should get lumps of various sizes.
    2. Stir in the sugar and set aside. It’s worthwhile to make a larger batch of crumble topping to freeze for later. Then you can have crumble on demand.
    3. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
    4. Stir the gula melaka into the passionfruit pulp and pineapple chunks until dissolved, then place into a shallow ovenproof bowl.
    5. Beat the egg yolk and cream together till combined, then stir into fruit mixture.
    6. Spoon the crumble over the mixture. Make sure it’s a very generous layer.
    7. Put in the oven for 25 minutes. Make sure you have something inside to catch the spills, it’s likely to bubble over.
    8. When it’s browned on top and bubbling below, take out carefully and allow to cool for 10 minutes before almost burning your mouth trying to get at the tart, sweet, fragrant, gorgeous goodness.

    Serves 2-3, depending on how much you want to share.

    Low-Fuss Slow-Food Dinner: Pork Pot-Roast in Red Wine Sauce

    Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

    There are some lazy days you’re in the whole day and want something good to eat but with minimal fuss. This dish takes a while to make, but the actual kitchen work is almost negligible. It’s the answer to your lazy prayers!

    I was inspired by something vaguely German: sausages cooked in red wine and caraway seeds. Being too broke to buy good sausages and too posh to venture anything too downmarket in the sausage department, I went for good ol’ pork shoulder instead. It helped that it was on sale too. Feel free to use sausages, in which case you can cut down the cooking time to 20 minutes instead of 3 hours! Don’t go running out to buy a whole tin of caraway seeds if you don’t have them. Substitute anything with anise flavour like star anise or fennel seeds. You can even use Chinese five-spice  (wuxiang/mm hiong) powder.

    Staying on the lazy theme, I couldn’t be bothered to boil the potatoes for mash, so I baked them instead. I like to mash them skin and all because the roasted skin gives a lot of nice texture and I don’t like the hassle of picking the skins out anyway!

    The only boiling you’ll need to do is the greens. I use kailan here for its mustardy flavour. It goes amazingly well with the pork. Just give them a quick one-minute scald in boiling water and it’s good to go.

    And the wine. I normally use whatever leftover stuff I have in my freezer. But for drinking, try a pinotage. Mine was by Two Oceans (2006) in South Africa. Being very young, it’s a bright red purple with cherry and strawberry in the nose. It’s very juicy with soft tannins and just enough astringency for balance. It’s very easy drinking and quite agreeable with this pot-roast.

    dscf4028

    Ingredients:
    300 g pork shoulder, cut into large cubes
    1 tbsp oil
    3 small purple onions, sliced
    10 button mushrooms, halved
    2 tbsp flour
    1-2 cups red wine
    2 tsp caraway seeds
    salt and pepper

    3 floury potatoes (try Russets or King Edwards if you can), scrubbed
    1 knob butter

    kailan, boiled

    Method:

    1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC and slip a casserole dish in to preheat.
    2. Prick the potatoes with a fork to prevent explosions. You can omit this step if you’re brave or foolish like me.
    3. Brown the meat on all sides in a non-stick pan. Use the highest heat possible. Transfer to preheated casserole dish.
    4. In the same pan, add the oil and fry the onions till a bit burnt in places. Add the mushrooms and let them brown or even burn slightly at the edges.
    5. Then add the flour and stir vigorously till onions and mushrooms are well coated. Do not let burn! Turn down the heat if you need to and stir for about one minute. It’s good if the flour browns.
    6. Add the wine, caraway seeds, lots of ground pepper and a bit of salt. Scrape the bottom of the pan so all goes into the sauce. Pour onto pork and stir to coat. Ensure that the liquid covers at least half the pork.
    7. Cover the casserole dish with the lid and put in the oven for 3 hours. At the same time, put the potatoes directly onto the oven bars.
    8. Check after half an hour that the mixture is bubbling gently, not boiling. Turn down the heat if it’s boiling too vigorously. Stir occasionally if you’re up for it.
    9. Two hours later, retrieve the potatoes. Squeeze them to check that they’re cooked. They should squish slightly. Remember to use an oven mitt.
    10. Immediately transfer to a bowl and squish hard so they fall out and mash a bit with a fork. Add the knob of butter and stir. Cover.
    11. When the pot-roast is ready, take out and serve with the mash and boiled kailan. Try to look civilised as you fall upon your food.

    Serves 2.