Yum Bao: Chinese steamed buns meet Thai sweet pork

A most delicious project: Steamed bao stuffed with Thai sweet pork (muu waan).

A most delicious project: steamed bao stuffed with Thai sweet pork (muu waan).

It’s not often you can credit a success in the kitchen to an Olympic figure skater, but I most definitely owe Brian Boitano a huge thank you for these delightfully decadent pork buns.

The last time I made steamed buns, the filling was fantastic but the buns lacked the fluffy tenderness of the bao from my favorite Chinese restaurant. So I turned to the internet in search of a fairly uncomplicated yeasted steamed bun recipe and somehow landed on one attributed to Mr. Boitano, who apparently has his own cooking show.

While I nearly passed the recipe by for something, well, more authentic, its stellar reviews caught my eye. People seemed to love the recipe, praising the buns for their puffy, fluffy texture. In fact, while reading the comments in other bun recipes that I came across, I saw references to Boitano’s tasty buns (ha!) and was finally convinced to try them out.

Well, Boitano certainly deserves a gold medal for that recipe because it’s pretty awesome. The dough was a dream to work with, very pliable, and the texture was spot-on, light and fluffy even though my pleating was far from delicate. While I think the dough could have used a dash of salt, that’s the only criticism I have. Continue reading

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Cooking like Keller, Part Three: Pomegranate Glazed Quail, Caramelized Cabbage

Pomegranate Glazed Quail with Caramelized Savoy Cabbage, from the Ad Hoc cookbook

Pomegranate Glazed Quail with Caramelized Savoy Cabbage, from the Ad Hoc cookbook

The third installment of “A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving”

Over the course of this blog, I think we’ve established that my husband and I are practically professional eaters. There was the full lobe of foie gras downed in a single seating at Au Pied de Cochon and the time that we pre-gamed a 10-course dinner at an elegant Italian restaurant with back-to-back meals at two other restaurants…before heading to a serious pork-athon the next day.

Then there was our three-day road trip to Napa. We knew we needed to make the most of our time since we had no idea when we’d ever be back — this is always our excuse for gorging ourselves — so we planned to get in as many meals as our stomachs would allow.

We left Portland at 5 am on a Friday morning on a mission to drive nearly non-stop to San Francisco. I say nearly because we made a pit stop in Redding for my very first In-N-Out burger. Hours later, we suffered through an excruciatingly good meal at Incanto, followed by a two-course brunch at SPQR the following morning.

From there we went to Yountville where we pillaged the paté case at the Fatted Calf, a lovely charcuterie shop, before venturing on to our hours-long dinner at the French Laundry. The very next morning we hit up Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc for brunch, stopped at the Bouchon bakery for sweet treats and then started our 10-hour drive back home.

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Cooking like Keller, Part Two: Scallops with Braised Endive

Seared Kodiak scallops with citrus-braised endive

Seared Kodiak scallops with citrus-braised endive

The second installment of “A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving”

Our dinner at the French Laundry wasn’t the first dining experience my husband and I had at a Thomas Keller restaurant.

We hadn’t been married more than a year when we spent a spontaneous three-day weekend in Vegas. The trip was a blast — we saw a Cirque du Soleil show, had a fancy dinner at Mario Batali’s B&B Ristorante and even took a rather hilarious gondola ride through the Venetian hotel. You’ll notice the one thing we didn’t do — gamble.

Neither of us is really into casinos and the only chips we put down were the two free ones we got from the front desk when we checked in. The trip — like our lives — focused on food, ending in a fantastically elegant meal at Bouchon a few hours before we left town.

That meal would end up being our downfall.

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Cooking like Keller, Part One: Oysters & Pearls

Thomas Keller's Oysters and Pearls, French Laundry Cookbook

A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving, Course 1: Oysters and Pearls, French Laundry Cookbook

The first installment of “A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving”

My husband and I like to make lists.

But instead of “things to do” or “places to go,” most of our lists revolve around food that we’ve already eaten. One list is the fullest we’ve ever been. For me, hands down, the winner is after our meal at the (now defunct) Incanto in San Francisco. I was so stuffed I almost cried when the kitchen sent us a complimentary dessert and champagne at the end of the meal. It felt more like a punishment than a gift.

We also talk about the longest meals we’ve had (the Herb Farm is definitely up there – so much food!) and, of course, the best things we have eaten. This list is constantly changing but for both of us the ultimate winner is the same — the Oysters & Pearls from our dinner at the French Laundry back in 2011.

This is one of Chef Thomas Keller’s most iconic dishes. The base is a custard made with small pearl tapioca, cream and oyster trimmings. The mixture is baked in individual ramekins and then topped with a gently poached fresh oyster, a silky butter sauce, a scoopful of caviar and a dusting of chives.

It’s perfection.

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