Sunday, February 26, 2012

Market's Kitchen is finally open at Market Basket in Chelmsford!

It's no secret that Market Basket in Chelmsford has been undergoing a major face lift since the big competition, Stop & Shop opened across the street where the old cinema used to be over a decade ago.  Stop & Shop, the largest New England food retailer finally won the battle after many years of numerous blockages and had its grand opening just in time before a major holiday season, Thanksgiving of 2011.

Today, Market Basket opened up its Market's Kitchen in the Chelsmford store.  Many of you may already be familiar with it since its already featured in the Tewksbury.  Market's Kitchen is comparable to the hot foods sections of many other competitors such as Stop and Shop and Wholefoods Market (on the luxury end).

Customers can browse and pick and choose different things to make up their meal.  The choices are endless at the new Market's Kitchen in Chelmsford.  There is a made to order deli station, pizza station, sushi station in additional to the fresh hot fried foods like egg rolls, chicken wings and onion rings.  The beauty is that the set up is very convenient and affordable.  Unlike placing an order at a sub shop, we don't have to order a "Small Onion Rings" or "Large Chicken Wings", we can just pick and choose how many we want which costs less money in addition to reducing food wastage.
Market Basket Hot Foods Section

The Mo and I are huge fans since we never really know what we want to eat until we see something that catches our eye.  Sometimes I am in the mood for sushi and he's in the mood for something else.  Usually he ends up getting the made to order grilled Cuban sandwich with extra hots whereas I like to try different things.

The new bakery stood out with their colorful displays of cakes, Italian cookies, pastries, and cupcakes.  The featured cakes were not your typical "grocery store cakes" but more artsy and whimsical.  They looked more modern and definitely caught my eye along with other customers who were already placing cake orders.  The pastries itself were a big ticket item.  I usually don't see the bakery department busy compared to the deli department on a Sunday but today there were people asking for rum log rolls and cannoli's. I coudn't resist and picked up a few things myself. A mini cheesecake, espresso cake and a fruit tart only set me back $6.97.

My order

Although there is no salad bar, there's a decent variety of premade salads in the refrigerator section where you can also pick up premade side dishes that can be reheated at home.  Across the refrigerator is the hot rotisserie chicken with small and large chicken and premade subs.

Rotisserie Chicken

Premade salads

The Mo and I grabbed a quick dinner there this week, and this is what we got for $ 9.00 + tax
Cubano Classico Grilled 

Large Slice of Sicilian cheese pizza

Spanikitopia Twist

My take on the legendary Boott Mills

The city of Lowell is known historically for its Boott Cotton Mills where early immigrants came to spin and weave cotton during the Industrial Revolution.
boott mill sandwich
Boott Mill

When one asks a Lowell native what a "Boot Mill" is, he or she shouldn't be surprised if the response is, "a breakfast sandwich."

Arthur's Paradise Diner is known for their legendary breakfast sandwiches stuffed with your choice of meat, cheese, eggs and homefries on a toasted bulkie.  The homefries within the breakfast sandwich itself is what sets this breakfast sandwich apart from others.

The proximity of the diner to Lowell High School, City Magnet middle school and the former Arts Magnet school is what helped with is popularity and regular customers.  Students would skip classes to grab a sandwich before heading back to school or not even heading back at all.

Although I didn't attend Lowell High, my siblings did and my father would drop us off at the same time even though the middle school didn't start class until an hour later.  I had time to walk 5 minutes to Bridge Street to get a sandwich which only set me back $ 2.00 (that was over 11 years ago).  About ever year, the price would increase gradually by a quarter to .50 cents.  Today I'm hearing that the price is about $5.00.

Since the Mo is sometimes feeling nostalgic for his high school breakfast food, I usually make it for him every once in a while.  Trust me, this is not an everyday breakfast food, not even an "every weekend" food. I probably make it a few times a year.

Here is the recipe for Mami's take on Boott Mills with a little flare

Makes 4 sandwiches

Kirkland's Sea Salt

  • 4 Bulkie Rolls
  • 2 Tablespoon of Butter
  • Ham, Sausage, Bacon or Canadian Bacon
  • 4 Eggs
  • American Cheese
  • 3 Medium Potatoes
  • 1/4 cup of minced Parsley
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Sea Salt Preferred but you may use table salt
  • Paprika

Wash and boil 3 Medium Potatoes with the skin on for about 20 minutes.  Peel potatoes and set aside to cool.  After its cool enough for you to handle, cut the potatoes into medium size cubes.

In a large skillet, add the olive oil, parsley and onions.  Add the cut up potatoes, a dash of paprika, sea salt and black pepper into the skillet on med to high heat.  Let the potatoes crisp on each sides before setting aside.
Potatoes boiling on Med to High temp
Cut Potatoes into Medium cubes
Add Onion and Parsley to Olive oil
Add Potatoes
Potatoes in Skillet

Using the same skillet, (again, I don't want to have too many pots and pans for the Mo to wash), grease the bottom of the pan and crack 4 eggs, similar to sunny side up style.  If your skillet is large enough, only use half the pan and warm up the ham or Canadian bacon on the other side.

Remove the ham once it turns slightly brown.  Flip the eggs when the egg whites are cooked.  I like to gently pop the yolk so its only semi runny and not too runny for when I eat my sandwich.  A runny yoke can make for a messy breakfast.

Melt butter in the microwave so its easier to spread on the roll. Toast the bulkies in a toaster oven, I prefer my counter top infrared oven because its easier to clean and I can constantly check on it without opening the lid or door and letting the heat out.

Lastly, assembly the sandwich with all the ingredients we just prepped. Layer the homefries first, add the egg, add the cheese and top it off with the meat of your choice.  Cut it in half and serve with any leftover homefries.  I placed mine on top of aluminum wrapper just for the same effect.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mami's Pad Thai for Two

Pad Thai
Pad Thai
When it comes to Pad Thai, you can pretty much put whatever meat, seafood, or veggies you want. It's all up to you! My favorite combination is beef, shrimp and fried tofu with extra peanuts and hold the onions.  The most common combination I found is chicken and shrimp with onions, scallions and crushed peanuts.  No two families make pad thai the same.  Everyone makes it different!

Although most westerners conceive pad thai as an entree for lunch or dinner, its pretty common to eat any type of fried noodle dish for a breakfast.  When the Mo and I was in Bangkok, we saw many locals eating fried noodles or noodle soups for breakfast from the street vendors before heading off to their daily grind.

Growing up in a Cambodian household, my mother would usually make us fried wide noodles with sauce, fried ramen, or fried thin rice noodles (very similar to Pad Thai) but served with homemade fish sauce on the weekends.  She would make so much that we would eat it for breakfast, dinner and breakfast again on Sunday.

Fresh Pad Thai Noodles
Many people ask me the recipe for pad thai, and to be honest, I don't really know it.  I just kind of improvise.  Each time I make it, it comes out different.  Also, the amount of phad thai I make affects the method and ingredients used.  For instance, if I am making large catering trays for a party, I purchase the dried noodles because its less expensive.  If I am cooking for just the Mo and I, I would just purchase a fresh bag of refrigerated noodles for convenience.  The difference is that I don't have to soak the fresh noodles as I do with the dried noodles.

Here is a simple recipe for Two:

Store bought Pad Thai Sauce
  • 1 Bag of Fresh Pad Thai Noodles (Can be purchased at any Asian store, but I actually got this at the local Market Basket in Chelmsford, Ma for $ 1.59)
  • 1/4 lbs of Sliced Beef ( I use siroloin, but you can use any cut)
  • 1 Scallion, sliced or julienne 
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of fried garlic in oil
  • 2 Cups of bean sprouts
  • 2 Tablespoons of Oyster Sauce
  • Roasted peanuts
  • Pad Thai Sauce (You can Google some recipes to make your own pad thai sauce, I learned how to make the sauce while working at Southeast Asian in Lowell but it is just easier for me to buy the sauce if I am cooking for only two people) If you are lazy like me, you can purchase the sauce at any Asian store or any International Foods aisle in a Western grocery store. ** Please note, not all sauces are the same and it takes some experimenting.  Some are actually really spicy, BUYER BEWARE
    • Optional: 1/2 cup of Shrimp/tofu
    • Optional: Lime Wedge
    • Optional: Sriracha Hot Sauce
    • Optional: Small Onion
First, heat up a frying pan and prepare the eggs as you would cook it sunny side up. Flip the eggs over, and start scrambling with the eggs so they break up in the pan.  Set the cooked eggs aside. You can also beat the eggs before you scramble them but I like to see the contrasting yellow and whites in the noodle dish.

Sunny side up eggs
Scrambled Sunny Side up eggs
Sugar heating up in pan
To prevent the meat from overcooking or being too dry, I caramelize the meat.  This can be done with pork chicken or beef.  Caramelizing is very popular in Southeast Asian stews and stir fries. In the same frying pan (trying not to get the Mo mad by using too many pots/pans for him to wash later), add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a tablespoon of sugar and let the sugar dissolve on med heat.  After about two minutes, the sugar will turn a light brown.  Stir gently with a brush or a wooden spoon so you do not scratch the surface of your pan.  When the color turns medium brown, add the meat into the pan.  ** Be careful when doing this as the oil will splatter.  Use a cover if you need to prevent the splatter.  
Sugar caramelizing

Also, this "caramelizing" process is a bit tricky.  It took me a few trial and errors as teenager to get it right.  I used to wait to long before adding the meat and the sugar would be burned and I would have to throw away my meat.  When in doubt, just add a few pieces of meat initially so you don't have to waste any if its burned.  Its easier to throw away burned sugar than a pan of meat coated in burned sugar.  Don't get discouraged, just keep trying until you get it right.

Beef and oyster sauce
Add the oyster sauce to the pan and stir.  If using frozen seafood, blanch the seafood in boiling water before adding to the pan.  Stir occasionally until the meat and seafood is thoroughly cooked.  If you are using any other vegetables or tofu, you can add it to the mixture now.

In a large wok, add 1 cup of the pad thai sauce, fried garlic and the optional sriracha hot sauce if you prefer spicy.  Stir the mixture and let it heat up on medium temperature as it slowly boils.
Pad Thai Sauce

In a medium pot, boil 12 cups of water.  Add the noodles to the boiling water for 30 secs and drain.  **Careful not to overcook as the noodles will become gummy and stick together.  Do not use this method if using dried noodles. Since the noodles are already soaked using the dried method, the blanching step will overcook the noodles) 
Add the drained noodles and meat and seafood to the wok with the sauce and stir with tongs or chopsticks.  Be careful not to rip the noodles into pieces.  When the noodles are no longer white and covered with sauce, add the beansprouts and scallions. You can choose to add a little bit of lime juice if you prefer a more sour taste.  I don't care for it that much so I opt not to.

 Plate the noodles and add crushed peanuts and a lime wedge for garnish.
Mami's Pad Thai Noodles

The traditional Cambodians and Thais roast their own peanuts on the stove. Again, I like to cut corners so I buy the salted peanuts already roasted and use a mortar and pestle (that has been in my family for more than 20 years) and crush the peanuts manually.  You can also use a small mini food processor if that is easier for you. I prefer the peanuts more coarse for texture.

Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts
Mortar and Pestle

Monday, February 20, 2012

Banana Crepes

Fruit Crepe
Mami's Banana and Nutella Crepe
Khao San Road Banana Pancake

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Not your College Ramen

Mami's Spicy Japanese Ramen
My friend Helen and I was talking about New York City and eating in Chinatown when she brought up Flushing and Korean Town.  She got really excited and said that she had the best ramen noodles in Flushing, NY.  I was confused, I asked her, "You paid for ramen at a restaurant?"

She explained to me that my experience with ramen is not the same as what the Japanese and Korean eat for their staple dish.  She told me she liked her ramen with bamboo shoots and meats.

This morning, I woke up remembering our conversation. Usually for breakfast, I make the Mo a typical western breakfast of eggs and meat or a simple Cambodian fried noodle dish.  Since I've been lacking with the blog, I decided to challenge myself and try something new.  I "Googled" image Japanese ramen and was inspired by some of the photos.  I didn't choose one dish that I would imitate from but I would gather whatever ingredients I had readily available and use it.

Hard Boiled Egg
I raided my freezer, fridge and pantry and brought out anything that I thought would be relevant to my ambitious new noodle dish.  In my freezer, I found Asian beef meatballs, shrimp, pork belly, and fish cake. In my fridge, I was able to gather scallions, romaine, cilantro, spinach, eggs, and chicken thigh.  Of course we had the dried ramen noodles in our pantry along with some chicken broth and other seasonings.

First I boiled eggs for 2 minutes and set it aside in its hot water for 10 minutes. Careful not to overcook.  After cool, slice eggs into halves.

I deep fried the pork belly, chicken thigh and fish cake.  After they cooled down, I sliced them up.

I blanched the spinach, shrimp and meatballs.

Giant Beef meatballs and small shrimp
Open 4 packages of ramen noodles and remove seasoning packets. Boil 10 cups of water and place dried noodles in rapidly boiling water for 3 minutes. Gently stir to break up the noodles.  After cooking for 3 minutes, drain noodles and set aside.

In medium sauce pan, add 2 cans of chicken brother, (I prefer Market Basket for the price) and 2 cans of water. Add the garlic oil seasoning but not the flavoring seasoning.  Add a dash of fish sauce, a teaspoon of salt and sugar and 2 teaspoons of garlic chili oil and a pinch of black pepper.  You may add more chili based on your preference.  I also like to add a generous tablespoon of fried red onion. (see image below)

Market Basket Chicken Broth
Fried Red Onion and Ground Chili with Fried Garlic
Wash the romaine, cilantro and scallion.  Thinly slice the scallion and cilantro for topping.  Place the romaine on the bottom of a large bowl with 1/4 of the leaf sticking out of the bowl.  Use chopsticks to carefully pick up the cooked noodles and place desired portion in bowl. Add the sliced meats, spinach, seafood, scallions and ciliantro to the bowl in a presentable manner.

Use a ladle to add the soup broth to the bowl and fill almost to the top of the brim.

In the restaurants, the ramen dishes are typically ordered with gyozas or dumplings, so I made served mine with Organic chicken and cilantro dumpling from Costco's and a ginger soy sauce.
Costco Cilantro and Chicken Dumpling