Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Aqua Dining Sydney

I took the Missus for her birthday dinner over to Aqua Dining. It was located right off the water on the north side of the bridge next to Luna Park (literally). I was so delighted with the meal I had to share.

Aqua is located in same building as the North Sydney Olympic Pool. It's got a great breath taking view of the harbor bridge and opera house. It's situated over the main pool, I'll say it's a little weird having dinner overlooking a bunch of people in their speedo's doing laps it's a very busy pool. Since you're sitting above the pool it kind of fades into the background, eye level is the harbor view. The staff were very attentive (our waiter noticed the table was wobbly and brought over cork shims to immediately rectify the problem) and did a great job of checking on us without being intrusive. Normally this isn't worth calling out, but in Sydney service is a bit less attentive than what you might be use to in the US. On to the food:

I had their take on the Moscow mule, I didn't write down the contents but it was rum and raspberry, it was quite good. I liked the ice "flower" on top.

We were presented with an amuse bouche of cured salmon with squid ink and pickled beet.

Both of us chose to go with the 3 course selection. The menu was organized by course and you could choose 2,3 or 4 courses. I started with the veal sweetbreads with pickled kohlrabi and puffed amaranth. She had the scarlet prawns with buckwheat, buttermilk and black sesame. The shrimp were small but every morsel was very sweet and delicious, we're told very difficult to get and we can see why. Apparently for Christmas, prawn (shrimp) are very popular (instead of say turkey and ham).

For the pasta course she went with the Maccheroncini, with 62 degree yolk, spinach and eggplant sauce.

I went for the burnt semolina tagliolini with sea urchin, fennel pollen and shaved bottarga. WOW, ok when (not if) I come back I could easily order 4 courses of just this. It's got two of my favorite things in the world Uni (sea urchin) and Bottarga (an Italian version of 烏魚子)  the pasta was toothy and super creamy (from the sea urchin) I didn't even mind the licorice of the fennel pollen. Don't let the plating fool you, it was a good amount of pasta.

Main course: she selected the Wagyu beef with celeriac and pizzaiola sauce (a tomato based sauce with basil and oregano).  Super tender and the Wagyu just melted in your mouth.

I had the lamb rump with roasted baby lettuce and macadamia. I did ask about the preparation, sometimes lamb rump could be slow cooked or stewed (which i'm not partial to) but he said cooked at 60 in a water bath. This was a good temp, very flavorful and perfect tender juicy texture.

We didn't go for a dessert course, I actually bought a cake back home. They have a 85 degrees bakery (it's a Taiwanese bakery) here and we love their "Taro Fantasy" cake.  Taiwanese cakes tend to be a lot less sweet than their western counterparts and the cake very spongy and light in texture.

Back to the restaurant. We were surprisingly full after three courses. The food was amazing and it was a great place to celebrate a birthday. It's definitely on my list of favorites of all the places we've eaten here in Sydney. If you ever make it out here check it out.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Early Happy Thanksgiving from Down Under!

One of my friends gathered all of us expats and folks that formerly resided in North America to celebrate an early Thanksgiving dinner. It's kind of weird having Thanksgiving where the day before was 108F and there aren't turkey's at the grocery stores. But I was thankful to be able to celebrate with new friends.

It was a great dinner, very healthy and vegetarian friendly as turkey day dinner goes. We had (from the left): Tomato mac and cheese, Sesame sautéed green beans, Tofu Turkey, Smoked turkey, Cornbread stuffing, Lemony Brussel Sprouts, Shiitake truffle quinoa pilaf, Mandarine Spinach salad with vinaigrette,  and Carrot and Cauliflower mash. For dessert, pecan pie squares and pumpkin pie (like from a real pumpkin not the can.)

What a delicious meal! The only thing we were missing was a football game on the television so we could pass out from all the food. It was a great way to quell that homesick feeling from being away for the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving yall!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hainanese Chicken and Rice Bento

I've been working on easy to cook lunches that I can put together during the week. Usually my bentos are made during the weekend when I have a bit more time to shop, prep and cook. I like this particular bento because a lot of the work is set and forget and doesn't require a lot of active prep time which gives me more time to unwind after work. I've made Hainanese chicken in the past (wow it's been 5 years) it's basically a poached chicken. I say "basically" but that description doesn't do the humble dish justice, it's got a lot of flavor and a great simple protein meal. Certainly, such a dish can easily be done sous vide couldn't it? After a bit of searching there were lots of different variations so apparently I wasn't the first to come up with the idea. Oh well.

As I said the ingredients are simple. The top for the poaching packets: Green onion, ginger, salt and chicken breast. The bottom picture is the sauce: rice wine, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and some garlic. Yup that's it. Hainanese chicken is usually skin on and whole bone in chicken mainly because it produces a flavorful oily poaching liquid. Since I was holding at temp for a while, I figured we could go with skinless as we'll be adding more flavor from a longer poaching time on the chicken and aromatics. It's also worth noting for the sauce the longer it sits the more garlic flavor you'll get. It's fine if you're cooking this for dinner but if you can let it sit for overnight it'll be even better. I've still got a batch in the fridge, since it's vinegar, salt, alcohol (three things all bacteria hate) I felt pretty safe in storing it longer term.

I sliced up the ginger into thin rounds (maximize that surface area) and the green onions into 1.5 inch segments and dropped them in with the chicken breast (which I salted ) and added 1 cup of liquid to the pouch and used the "water displacement" method for sealing the bag. The water in the bag is important because you're going to be using this for your rice.

I set the nomiku to 146 and when I had the water I temperature I dropped in the bags and let it go for about 1.5 hours. Minimum you want an hour but you can go as far as four hours if you've got things to do.

Once done, I strained out the liquids from the bag directly into my rice cooking pot, until I had enough liquid to cook the rice. In this recipe I did four chicken breast which worked out to be enough water to cook to the "four cup" level on my rice cooker pot. (kind of convenient). I hit the button on the magic rice cooker pot and let it do it's magic.

After I let the chicken rest, I sliced it up 3/4 inch thick. For the sauce I went with 1/4 cup of Soy sauce and vinegar and 2 tbsp of the rice wine and 2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped.

The rice came out very flavorful, maybe not quite as flavorful as cooking with a bunch of rendered chicken fat, but I think it's a reasonable trade off for a healthy version of this dish.  All told active cooking time might have taken me about an hour including washing up and boxing everything. (I microwaved steamed the broccoli) I even had time to watch an episode of Dr Who on the dvr, not too shabby.

Sous vide Hainanese Chicken
4 boneless skinless Chicken breast
3 green onions
2 inch piece of ginger

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp rice wine "Michiu"
2 cloves garlic

Fill your sous vide device with water and set the temperature to 146F.

Slice green onions into 1.5 - 2 inch pieces including the greens. Peel and slice ginger into thin rounds. Divide both into 4 equal portions

Salt the chicken breast on both sides and place in sealable plastic bag with a portion of ginger and onion. Add one cup of water and seal the bag with "water displacement method".

When your water bath is at temperature drop in your chicken packets. Let cook for at least 1 hour up to 4 hours.

For the sauce: roughly chop garlic and combine in a bowl with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and rice wine.  (this can be ahead to develop the flavor)

When Chicken is done, strain the liquid and reserve for cooking rice and let rest. Slice in to 3/4" medallions and serve with Sauce

For rice:
measure 4 cups (roughly 3 cups uncooked, depends on your rice cooker). Fill rice cooker pot with reserved liquid to instructed mark on rice cooker. If you don't have enough top it off with water. Cook according to instructions.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Short fast bento

Sorry for the short post. Had to put something together for lunch, nothing special. Corned beef with Sauteed zucchini, shitake, king oyster mushroom and steamed broccoli.

Longer post to come on Hainanese Sous vide chicken breast.