Monthly Archives: January 2012

All in the Family- Lan’s Asian Grill

Recently, looking for somewhere new to try out, Robyn and I  decided to browse through the reviews on YELP. We wanted something inexpensive, and given the frigid temperatures of the day, something warm and comforting. And we found just that.

Located in a strip-mall on 118 ave at 103 st. in a neighbourhood not typically known for great eateries, Lan’s is a simply decorated, friendly, family run operation with a straight to the point menu.

My kind of place.

A lot of reviews referred to the owner, Tom, and his outgoing friendliness. Robyn and I experienced this immediately upon entering the restaurant. Tom, who owns the eatery with his sister Monica, explained that they wanted to focus on making good, quality food, while reducing the fat and calories wherever reasonably possible.

Whoa, whoa, whoa there big fella. That sounds suspiciously like the calling card of every bland, boring dish I ever ate. After debating telling him to march right back there and put that fat back in, Tom assured me that I was going to love the food.

He was right.

We started the feast with a green onion cake.

I have to admit, I am no green onion cake aficionado.  In fact I generally believe that dense, stodgy pancakes filled with green onions are better used to prop up an uneven table leg or to put a drink on rather that being passed off as sustenance. But the layered, flakey dough at Lan’s could actually make me a convert. And when you dip it in the accompanying sweet chili sauce I would actually say it’s…. gasp…. good! I certainly prefer these pan fried dough style to the pan fried batter style.

Of course no Asian meal for me is complete without some crispy fried springrolls. These ones were super crisp, and came with the same sweet chili dipping sauce.

Robyn decided on a Cashew Chicken Stirfry for her entree. Loaded with moist, tender chicken, onions, peppers, and cashews, it had just a hint of spice and hit the spot for her perfectly.

Despite the rave reviews for the Pad Thai, I opted for the Spicy Green Curry Stew. Heat level: HOT.

Spicy? Oh yeah.

Delicious? Absolutely.

Although the consistency reminded me more of soup than stew (and who cares really, as long as it tastes good) it bulked up nicely when you added in the delicious coconut rice. The flavour was intense and creamy, but what I really liked was that when you ask for hot, it’s actually hot. And not just the kind of hot that someone who hates spicy food would find hot either. I mean it made a seasoned curry junkie like myself sweat profusely. Just the thing for a blustery, snowy night in Edmonton.

Given the quality of food and service at Lan’s, it’s easy to see why this family eatery has gained such a loyal following in an area that normally wouldn’t inspire people to visit. It just goes to show that when you offer great value and friendliness, word gets around fast.

Lan's Asian Grill on Urbanspoon

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Braised Beef Short-ribs and Accordion Potatoes

Continuing my ongoing saga to create restaurant quality meals at home, this weekend I decided I was going to tackle a dish that has always scared me.

Braised Shortribs.

I wanted to give myself the best chances of success, and that meant I was going to need to start with the best beef. So I headed out to visit my go-to butcher shop, the over 90 year old Acme Meats. Seriously, if you live in Edmonton and you haven’t been to Acme, you should let Corey the butcher hook you up with some quality local meats.

Acme to the rescue

The first step is to add some oil (I used olive oil) to your dutch oven and sear off the shortribs on all sides. You may need to do this in batches so as not to cool the pan too much. As I am cooking for 2, I used 2 ribs cut into 4 pieces each.

smells great already

Remove the seared meat from the pan and add in the onions and mushrooms, garlic, and spices. Saute about a minute then deglaze the pan with your red wine and beef stock.

Bring to a boil and return the ribs to the pan, basting with the succulent juices.

Everybody in the pool!

Slide your dutch oven into a pre-heated 350 degree oven. It’s now time to sit back and enjoy one of these…

You’re going to let the short-ribs braise for about 3 hours, then pull them out of the broth and set aside on a plate. Put the pot on the stovetop and reduce the juices to your desired consistency and season to taste.

Return the shortribs to the pot, cover, and remove from the heat. They will stay warm in the dutch oven until you are ready to serve.

love me tender

The accordion potatoes could not be easier. Wash 6 equal sized potatoes and slice them most of the way through in 1/4″ segments. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 425 degrees until soft. (about an hour) Or put them in the oven with the ribs at the lower temperature for the last hour of cooking and crank it up to 425 when you take the ribs out until done.

Now that we’ve got all the components made, it’s time to dish up some short-ribs and slather some butter on those potatoes. And hey, why not make your mom happy by adding a little steamed broccoli?

Go ahead and give this one a try. You’ll love it.

crazy good

you know you want it

Braised Short-ribs with Accordion Potatoes

  • 2 short-ribs, cut into 8 pieces.
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1-2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups red wine
  • 1 1/4 cups beef stock
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp herbs de provence
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 equal sized potatoes
  • olive oil

Sear ribs on all sides with olive oil in a dutch oven. Remove, and add onions, garlic, mushrooms, thyme, and salt to the pot and saute a minute or 2. Deglaze with the wine and stock. Return the ribs to the pot and braise in a preheated 350 degree oven for 3 hours.

Slice potatoes most of the way through in 1/4″ sections, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and put in the oven for the last hour of the ribs cooking time. After you pull the ribs out, turn up the potatoes to 425 to finish cooking.

Remove the short-ribs from the pan and reduce the juices on the stovetop until desired consistency is achieved. Return the short-ribs to the sauce and you are ready to serve.

Pretzel buns- A carnival in your mouth

I am not a baker.

Wait, let me re-phrase that. Technically, I can bake. In the same fashion that a hockey player could do your taxes. It can be done, but is it a good idea? I think not.

My numerous attempts at bread making have been an unmitigated disaster, and my cakes and cookies turn out more like bricks and pucks. And I’ve always wanted to be able to bake bread like this.

But with the addition of this little beauty to my kitchen…

…I’m hoping to turn around my misfortunes.

My first foray back into baking needed to be delicious enough to inspire me to continue, yet easy enough that a dumb dumb like me could have success.

What I came up with was these amazing pretzel buns.

Never heard of a pretzel bun? Don’t worry, neither had I until I saw them on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  And ever since then i’ve wanted to give them a try. I’ve made them 3 times so far, and i’ve been really impressed with the results.

So here’s the recipe and your step by step guide to not screwing it up.

  • 1 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/4 cup baking soda

To start, sprinkle the yeast into the warm water in your mixing bowl. Leave for approximately 5 minutes until it starts to foam.

  • Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together.
  •  Attach the dough hook, and start on low speed.
  • Add the flour mixture and mix on low/med for about 5 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth.

  • Form the dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, and cover with a moist towel to rise 30-35 minutes in a warm place.
  • Punch down the dough, and knead it for another minute. cut into 8 equal sized balls and cut an X in the top.
  • Place dough balls on a baking sheet and cover again with the damp towel.

  •  After about 15 or 20 minutes the dough will have risen suitably and it’s time for the fun part.
  • Boil the 6 cups of water and add the baking soda. It will bubble furiously but don’t worry, that’s normal.
  • Drop the dough into the boiling mixture 2 at a time and boil for about 30 seconds per side. (some recipes call for 2 minutes per side, but I found this made the dough a bit soggy)

  • Drain on a wire rack and sprinkle with salt.
  • Place the boiled dough balls back on your baking sheet.
  • Put the tray of buns in your preheated 425 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. In the meantime, you can do this….

Success!

They have a unique dark colour to them, and a distinct pretzel flavour that I absolutely love.     I could hardly wait for them to cool enough to crack one open and butter/ devour it.

pass the butter

I did find a couple things of note during the making of my 3 batches. First, when kneeding the balls try not to create large folds in the dough that can trap water during the boiling process. This will lead to very soggy spots in the finished product.

Secondly, the pretzel flavour seemed to dissipate the longer they sat unconsumed on the counter. The sooner you eat them the better. Or freeze whatever you’re not using quickly.

Thirdly, they are fantastic toasted with butter, but as Robyn found out they are not good warmed in the microwave. They got spongey, and soggy. Be warned.

So go ahead and try these out, and let me know what you think. In the meantime, if anyone needs me i’ll be making myself a sandwich.

French Onion Soup- good for the soul

Why are the simplest recipes the ones people screw up the most?

A lot of us get caught up in trying to make simple, classic dishes into something unique, and “special”. And a lot of times the result is “special” all right… like that kid in your 3rd grade class who brought his lunch to school in his nose, or people who park like this:

jackass

Now don’t get me wrong, jazzing up a tired old classic is all fine and dandy, but sometimes I crave an old-school classic in it’s basic form.

To that end, Robyn and I decided to make her mom’s crave-worthy French Onion Soup recipe and capture the whole process in pictures.

Onions!

We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

3 large onions- sliced

2 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup butter

3 cans of beef broth

1 tbsp worcester sauce

1/2 tsp pepper

OXO to taste

1 mountain of cheese- Swiss, gruyere, mozza… whatever you like

butter = better

Melt the butter in a large pot and add sliced onions and sugar.

they start out looking like this…

Fry on low/med heat until caramelized. Stir often.

but if you’re patient, they will become this.

Add in beef broth and boil on medium heat for approximately 20 minutes.

hoping for an endorsement cheque from Campbells

Add worcester sauce, salt, and OXO.

Gently boil another 20 minutes.

looking good so far

Top either with toasted baguette, or use croutons like we did. ( croutons make it much easier to eat with a spoon)

everyone loves croutons!

Now we just need to smother it with cheese* and broil it in the oven for a few minutes. How much cheese? I usually portion out a reasonable layer that covers the bread completely. Then I double it. Seriously, don’t skimp on the cheese.

hmm, still needs more cheese

* swiss and gruyere are traditional, and in this case I used swiss. I use mozzarella often also.

Now comes the hard part….. the waiting.

oh, come on already!

And waiting.

Almost 5 minutes!?! Oh, the humanity!!

And the smell of the melting cheese brings you some unexpected attention.

I’m awful cute and deserve cheese

Ok, so maybe it’s totally expected.

And finally…

mmm, cheesy goodness