Any time people come for dinner I try to throw in at least one new creation. It's part of the fun, although not always successful. I prepare for that possible outcome by just making sure I have lots of choices to fill in if one doesn't work out. The fact that I am always combining recipes and adapting them keeps the excitement level high. Will it be great, a snooze or just plain gross? No one knows until that last taste before it is served. My daughter and her boyfriend were coming for dinner the other day and I was looking for a way to try some new recipes and yet keep it easy so I wasn't tied to the stove. As he is a fairly good cook, I was determined to surprise him and I think I succeeded. The theme was Asian-Inspired Fusion. Not all dishes fit in the category, but the 2 new ones I offered tied it all together.
First was a trip to a great butcher shop. They offer quality meat which makes a huge difference and many are already seasoned. I picked up a selection of marinated chicken, lamb and beef skewers that were BBQ ready. While I do love marinating my own, this is a great time saver when in a rush. I also cooked my make-ahead carrots that are a standard at Christmas. You bake them the day before and then just gently warm them to serve. That recipe is published in my Make Ahead Holiday Dishes blog. My last non-fusion offering was bread. I have many quick bread recipes that are wonderful, but again ease was the point here so I could enjoy the company. My younger brother - an amazing cook - made this once and we all inhaled it. Take a baguette and cut 1/2" - 3/4" slices. Arrange on baking sheet. Brush tops liberally with good quality olive oil. Broil until lightly brown and crisp. Serve hot. It doesn't get any easier than that.
Now for the new recipes that brought in the fusion element. The first is a recipe from Company's Coming Potluck Dishes called Thai Slaw. I had been dying to try this own for awhile and the fact it had to chill for 2 hours before serving to develop the flavours made it perfect for this low work dinner. Overall I loved this dish, but did have 2 issues with the recipe. One was that it says it serves up to 12 - NOT. 4-6 depending on serving size is the maximum. I think it's a typo as there is no way 5-1/2 cups of salad will serve any 12 people I know, especially as things compact down a bit as it's chilling. The other was, while the dressing was great, it was a bit shy of flavour. I threw in a few squirts of Kraft's Asian Sesame dressing to fill in and it was perfect. I did try the Asian Sesame by itself the next day and it didn't have the right combo of flavours. So it was a great to perk-up the dressing, but not a substitute.
|Stock image - not actual recipe|
(Serves 4-6, NOT 12)
Dressing (must be cooked ahead of time and cooled)
3T White Wine Vinegar
1T Soy Sauce
1T Smooth Peanut Butter
1 tsp Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Dried Crushed Chilies (crushed red pepper flakes)
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1/2 C Water
1 tsp Cornstarch
(Note I added a few squirts of Kraft Asian Sesame to the final salad just to round out and fill in the flavours)
3 C Shredded Bok Choy, lightly packed (I like medium or small - not the large size)
1 C Shredded Suey Choy (Chinese Cabbage)
1 C Grated Carrot
1/2 C Thinly Sliced Red Onion
For dressing combine the first 6 ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to boil over medium heat. Combine water and cornstarch and mix until smooth. Slowly add to vinegar mixture, stirring constantly until boiling and slightly thickened. Cool. Makes 3/4 cup of dressing.
To prepare bok choy I sliced the stalks in half length-wise and the cross-sliced thinly. For the Suey Choy you can thinly slice like you would regular cabbage. Mix all slaw ingredients in bowl. Pour the cooled dressing over all and mix well. Taste. Again, I found just a small amount of the Kraft Asian Sesame brightened up the flavours that little extra.
Chill for 2 hours before serving.
Next was the potato portion of the evening. Rice is such a predictable addition so I wanted to explore other options. There were many interesting choices when I did a web search - Asian Inspired Potatos. None by themselves quite hit the mark for what I wanted so it was time to mix and match their suggestions and hope the final was edible. Fortunately all seemed to like the dish. It had visual appeal and that hint of Asian Fusion to tie the meal together. To the best of my memory, here is the final version. Again it's easy to pull together quickly. I combined the dressing with all fresh ingredients ahead of time. I also cubed the potatos and had them waiting in a pan of water. All I had to do was turn the burner on, drain the potatos when done and mix into the waiting vegetable dressing mixture. Voila! Remember this type of recipe really is warm to room temperature. It's not piping hot. The best thing - leftovers are also great cold. In it's chilled version it would work well at a summer picnic - no pesky mayonnaise to go bad.
6 Med. Red skinned potatos cut in chunks (about 2 pounds - leave skins on for colour)
1 Med. Red Bell Pepper diced
1/4 C Chopped Green Onions
Cilantro (use your personal taste as a guide, but I put in between 1/3 and 1/2 cup)
5 T Rice Vinegar
5 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-1/2 T Light Soy Sauce
1 tsp Asian Sesame Oil
3/4 tsp Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Chili Paste (in the Asian section of your grocery store)
1 Clove Garlic, minced
In medium size casserole, combine all dressing ingredients and then stir in red bell pepper, green onions and cilantro. Cover and leave on counter until potatos are ready. I actually set the casserole at the back of the stove to try to get all the ingredients at least room temperature. That way the dish stays warm a little longer.
Cut potatos and put in a saucepan. Cover with water and add a dash of salt. This can be done ahead of time. When ready - turn on the burner and bring to a gentle boil. Quickly reduce heat and simmer until just tender - about 20 minutes, but keep a close on on them as you don't want them mushy. They suggest cooking covered, but I find it easier to control how done they are if I cook them uncovered. Up to you which works best. When finished cooking, drain thoroughly and gently stir into the dressing and vegetables until well combined. SERVE!!!
Again, another option would be to chill and serve as a cold salad. As I already had a cold Thai Salad, serving this warm worked better for me.
So enjoy! More than anything I encourage you to experiment. The easiest way is to start with a few recipes to get a feel for the right proportions and then think about the flavours you love. What do you want more of, what do you want less of. Be brave!