Pineapple Fried Rice

American Girl:

Pineapple fried rice is one of my favorite Thai dishes, in fact it is the dish which got me into Thai food.  I’ve gotten it spicier and spicier through the years.  It is my definite go to comfort food.  I have sampled the pineapple fried rice at all of my local Thai restaurants.  I can be very particular.  Too many peas or raisins and I am put off.  Not enough spice, and it tastes bland.  Too much spice and my nose and eyes start to water.  I know I am picky, and no one makes a better pineapple fried rice than Brit Boy’s local Thai stop in Michigan. (I’ve had the pleasure of sharing it with him on numerous occasions.  We both love it so much, that it is the ONLY thing we ever get…) I am excited to try this recipe, but I must admit, having never cooked Thai before, I am anxious this recipe may be a letdown and leave me wanting to order take out from my favorite spot.

Brit Boy:

Thai food has only recently become a love of mine, always viewed as too spicy I did stay away from it, even though I love curries and am a Wasabi nut. I only started to “get into Thai” via American Girl, one of her favorite dishes being Pineapple Fried Rice, which we would eat often as a takeaway choice. My biggest challenge with this dish was the fact that I have never ever (in 20years of cooking oriental dishes) been able to reproduce anything even looking close to restaurant or takeaway fried rice, it’s always been a palatable, but a stuck together ugly mess. Could this be my dish for retribution or am I doomed to produce rubbish fried rice for eternity…. I was so focused on getting this right that I felt the need to purchase a wok (A Calphalon Unison Non-Stick Wok, a bargain at $100 reduced from $250). So would this additional expenditure help or hinder this week’s culinary challenge? I have also decided to add chicken to my dish as that is what was our common choice from the takeaway.

Of course Brit Boy has bought another gadget.  Marketers must see him coming, and giggle with excitement and glee.  So once again, this will be the most expensive pineapple fried rice ever made….  (And to think, he has the best Thai spot down the street from his house. He must be really determined to do these blogs with me…)

I should say right off the bat to be sure to cook your rice the day before.  It definitely gave it more of an authentic taste, and it didn’t become a clumped together soggy mess.  The other great tip in the recipe was to put a little oil in the rice, working it through and breaking up the granules.   A few other things I would suggest, is to make sure you take the time and prepare all the ingredients ahead of time.  You need to quickly mix them in at just the right time, this does not leave you the time to measure something out, or cut something up.  Fresh pineapple is also a must, canned pineapple just doesn’t seem like it would compare.

I agree with American Girl cooking the rice before and letting it cool is essential, although I didn’t cook mine the night before, I did however prepare it in the morning and bang it straight in the fridge. This worked well, I would also agree that using the oil and breaking the rice up with your fingers is an essential part of this and all other fried rice recipes (and more than likely my major downfall over the last 20 years), I actually used sesame seed oil which gave it an additional oriental flavor. I did however take the easy option and used canned pineapple, although the taste was fine it did heat up tremendously in the wok and I had complaints from the kids that it was too hot….

Overall, it went together relatively easily once everything was cut up.  I should mention my wok was way too small…. Okay, maybe Brit Boy was onto something with the big one he bought.  If I continue making recipes which require a wok, a new one will definitely be in order.  I also didn’t actually measure out the rice, I just estimated.  In the end, I think I made too much rice, and did not add enough of the other ingredients to compensate. 

I made a lot more rice than it stated as I have a rather nice rice cooker (I didn’t buy it American Girl….. It was a gift, ages ago). However, I did double the ingredients for the sauce and ultimately used a combination of soy sauce and fish sauce instead of sticking to one of them.

It definitely needed more spice, and I really wish I had some of those red chili flakes to mix into my serving. 

I completely agree it was very tasty but I didn’t get the kick I was expecting or yearning after, it was great for the kids (2 out of 3 loved it), but if I was making it for myself again (which I will do) I will need to experiment with additional spice.

I am also embarrassed to admit that I did not know what a shallot was, so I omitted the ingredient completely, this could have lead to some of the blandness… (But hey, I did use fresh cilantro from my herb garden so hopefully I earn a few points back….) 

You lose culinary points for the shallots but I forgot to add the CORIANDER….. which I had purchased as a garnish. I think it missed the flavor but wasn’t essential.

All of this being said, I still think it turned out very nice, especially for my first try at Thai.  I ate it for dinner and for lunch the next day.  The jury is still out with my kids, they all seemed to eat at least some of it, but managed to eat around the parts they didn’t like.  Ah well, can’t please them all.  If you are a fan of pineapple fried rice, I definitely think this recipe is worth trying.

I was well chuffed with myself, this was by far my most successful fried rice dish, and has  given me the confidence and inclination to set my sights on other oriental fried rice dishes. I think it was the wok American Girl………

IMG_1255 photo(1)

Ingredients

IMG_1254 photo

Capture

The recipe chosen was from About.com

Pineapple Fried Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 small can pineapple chunks, drained, OR 1+1/2 cups fresh pineapple chunks (instructions below)
  • 3-4 cups cooked rice, preferably several days old (Tip: if fresh, leave for an hour or more in the refrigerator uncovered)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or faux chicken stock (or regular chicken stock if non-vegetarian)
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red or green chili, thinly sliced, OR 1/4 to 3/4 tsp. dried crushed chili (chili flakes)
  • 1 egg (vegans can omit)*
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • optional: 1 small carrot, grated (about 1/4 cup)
  • ¼ cup currants OR raisins
  • ½ cup roasted unsalted whole cashews
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh coriander
  • STIR-FRY SAUCE:
  • 3 Tbps. soy sauce (OR substitute fish sauce if non-vegetarian)
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • optional: 1/2 tsp. sugar

Directions

  1. Mix 1 Tbsp. oil with the rice, using your fingers to separate any chunks into grains. Set aside.
  2. In a cup, stir the soy sauce/fish sauce together with the curry powder.
  3. Drizzle 1-2 Tbsp. oil in a wok/large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, garlic, and chili, stir-frying until fragrant (1 minute). Whenever the wok/pan becomes dry, add a little stock (1 Tbsp. at a time to keep ingredients sizzling).
  4. Crack egg (if using) into wok and stir quickly to cook (like making scrambled eggs).
  5. Add the carrot (if using) and peas. Stir-fry 1-2 minutes, adding more stock if needed.
  6. Now add the rice, pineapple chunks, peas, currents and cashews. Drizzle the fish/soy sauce mixed with curry powder over and gently stir-fry to combine over medium-high to high heat until the rice “dances” (makes popping sounds) – about 5 to 8 minutes, or until desired lightness is achieved. Tip: Avoid adding any more stock from here on, or your rice will turn out heavy and/or soggy. If desired, you can push ingredients aside and add a little more oil to the pan/wok (this will give your rice that special ‘shine’ you see in restaurant fried rice)
  7. Remove from heat. Do a taste-test for salt/flavor, adding a few shakes of salt or a little more soy sauce, as needed. If too salty for your taste, add a squeeze or two of lime juice.
  8. To serve, scoop rice onto a serving platter (or in a carved-out pineapple, if serving at a party – see link at beginning of recipe). Top with spring onions and coriander.
Advertisements
Posted in Entree | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bars

American Girl:

For our very first cooking challenge Brit Boy and I discussed what recipe to cook.  Should it be sweet? Savory?  Dinner? Dessert?  We quickly determined that it would be fun to begin with a dessert.  Unlike me, Brit Boy is not a lover of sweets.  He seldom likes desserts, and his favorite of all time is some kind of UK fruit cake.  While I do not consider that I have any real cooking skill, I have always said I would prefer to bake.  A few years ago on the first birthday I ever celebrated with Brit Boy, I wanted to surprise him with his favorite dessert.  I proudly called his Mum in England asking for ideas.  She happily sent me the recipe to his favorite fruit cake.  I didn’t recognize half of the ingredients, and there were many steps (such as soaking dried fruit in certain types of liquor for days before hand) which seemed daunting to say the least.  Couple this with the fact that all measurements were in the metric system and the oven temperatures were set in Celsius, I quickly realized I was in over my head, rushed to my local British Foods shop and purchased the best “straight from England” fruit cake I could find.    I have since told him it is our mission to find him a new favorite dessert (and hence, one I can actually cook).  I know he loves cheesecake and salted caramel, so this recipe was an easy choice.  Maybe in the future, the fruit cake recipe will make an appearance on this blog….

Brit Boy:

The art of baking and desserts has never been a passion of mine, however cheesecake is my favorite dessert. I was looking forward to getting stuck into a recipe that I could share with my kids and enjoy making but at the same time tax my culinary skills as baking is not something I regularly do. I soon realized at the supermarket that due to my lack of baking activity there were certain items which I needed to purchase just for this recipe. Firstly I did not own a baking tin for the cheesecake to get created in and also I didn’t have an electric whisk for the combining of the ingredients. In the past I have whipped cream by hand and combined ingredients, but it was a long process which I don’t believe enhanced the finished result and I’m not overly keen to have forearms like Popeye. So I was approximately $60 lighter even before the ingredients were purchased, yes I know I could have bought a cheaper mixer but when it comes to gadgets I cant help myself. For those interested I bought the Cuisinart Power Advantage 7 Speed Hand Mixer (Model HM-70), I was most excited about my purchase with it having a digital display, yes a digital display!!! All it is missing is lasers….. More about its performance later.

I am afraid to know the total cost of Brit Boy’s shopping extravaganza.  Even at the grocery store he finds a way to spend $60 on electronics… These will be the most expensive cheesecake bars ever made… 🙂

Having completed the cheesecake bars I think one thing worth noting is this is not a fast recipe, although relatively simplistic with few steps, each step does have an element of baking or waiting involved. Don’t expect to rattle these off, when you have surprise guests turn up, or when you forget that the kids haven’t got any treats for their lunch boxes.

I agree, they do take some time.  There is a lot of cool down time time between the layers, and chilling time in the fridge upon completion.  In the end, I felt they were quite tasty.  I do feel it is still rather “cheap” looking.  I think the drama of this recipe could be enhanced if either baked in a spring form or perhaps even as mini-cheesecakes  in a muffin tin.  If I make this recipe again, I may decide to try this approach.  One tip I have is to apply the salt to the slices upon serving, or right before cutting.  I applied the salt across the entire top and when left in the fridge overnight the salt crystals melted giving the look of little blisters , while it still tastes nice, the appearance can put you off.  I even wonder if the salt would be better used mixed within the crust.

I really enjoyed making this recipe and the result I think turned out well, I would agree with American girl though, although very tasty the aesthetics were lacking. As for my mixer well it was worth all the money I paid for it, as I didn’t follow the recipe and combined the sugar and eggs before the cream cheese. This resulted in a mixture which initially wasn’t fully combined until I had let the mixer get to work for a good 5 minutes, otherwise I would have had a cheesecake layer which had small unmixed pieces of cream cheese in it. I’m glad to say technology saved the day. The results are below (Brit Boy left, American Girl, right).

IMG_0536 IMG_1040

In addition American Girl and I initially had some difficulty tracking down the Dulce de Leche in our local stores, until hawkeye American Girl spotted it in the Mexican section and duly called me on my cell phone, problem solved… 🙂

Well as American Girl chose the first recipe I am going to heat up our friendly battle in more ways than one by choosing Thai Pineapple Chicken Fried Rice for our next challenge.

Ingredients

IMG_5742 IMG_1037

One of the things we thought may be interesting was to look at the relative expense of each of the recipes, contrasting how expensive foods are in our different home states but also who has the best stocked pantry. As you can see below this was an expensive recipe for me, but I will win the battle of the pantry one day……..

CaptureThe recipe chosen was from the Recipes Spot .

Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bars

Makes about 15 bars

For the Crust

  • 2 1/4 cups ground graham crackers (about 1 and a half sleeves)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 10 Tbsp. melted butter

Cheesecake Filling

  • 3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Caramel Topping

  • 2/3 cup dulce de leche
  • 2-3 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
  • 2-3 Tbsp. caramel sauce (the good stuff in a jar, not that runny syrup junk)
  • Fleur de sel

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a large rectangular pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Combine the crust ingredients in a medium bowl until the crust comes together, kind of like wet sand. Press crust evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake crust for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a rack while you make the filling.

3. Beat cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at time, beating each one until it’s incorporated before adding the next one. Add dulce de leche and vanilla extract and beat until fully incorporated. Pour batter onto crust and spread even. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until center is just set and edges are puffy and slightly cracked and golden. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before topping with caramel.

4. Pour dulce de leche and whipping cream into a glass bowl or measuring cup. Microwave for 10 seconds at a time, stirring between each interval, until the whipping cream is well combined with the dulce de leche. Add caramel sauce and stir until well combined. The topping should be pourable, but not runny.

5. When cheesecake bars are cooled, pour caramel topping all over the bars and spread evenly. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow caramel to set well. Cut into squares and *top with fleur de sel right before serving!

Posted in Dessert | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment