Monday, September 24, 2012

Sorrento (Mornington Peninsula) and Brighton Bathing Boxes (Melbourne)

It doesn't really have to do with food and cooking, we'll get back to food soon, but these are some really nice views. 

Mornington Peninsula is about an hour's drive south from Melbourne. There's not much land further south before Tasmania. Sorrento is one of the beautiful cities on the peninsula with some gorgeous beaches. 

Brighton is a suburb of Melbourne and the beach is home to iconic and colorful bathing boxes. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Melbourne CBD

Flinders Street Station

Graffiti in the lanes.

Thai for lunch at Chin Chin on Flinders Lane in Melbourne's CBD. Dishes are meant to be shared so everyone has a variety of tastes to enjoy...

The crispy barramundi and green apple salad with caramelized pork, peanuts, chilli and lemongrass was fantastic (the barramundi is actually hiding under the salad). Cilantro, green onion, and mint rounded out the flavor- spicy, savory, nutty, sweet, aromatic... we unanimously decided we could eat it every day.

Dry curry 'pad ped' with stir fried vegetables, spice crusted organic tofu, kaffir lime leaf, and Thai basil included green beans, baby corn, red chillis and caramelized shallots. While all of us had eaten tofu in the past, none of us would consider ourselves tofu eaters- this was one of those dishes that could change that.  

Aromatic yellow curry of roast pumpkin, chargrilled tofu, and green beans. This one was a little coconut-y, creamy, spiced with cinnamon and star anise, red chilli, and Thai basil. Jasmine rice helps to soak up as much of the saucy curry as possible. 
The pumpkin honestly tasted like it could have been dessert. 

But there was a real dessert, of course. We decided on a palm sugar ice cream sundae with salted honeycomb (maybe you know it as a molasses puff or cinder toffee) and lime syrup. The palm sugar ice cream was slightly caramel-y/burnt taste, the lime syrup added a pleasant tang, and the honeycomb a sweet and crispy contrast. And it all melded perfectly.

There's plenty to see in the lanes and arcades around the area... 

Making rock candy at Suga. 

Melbourne's Chinatown

St. Paul's Cathedral

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sydney Photos

Sydney Opera House. 

The Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

There's quite a bit of detail on the roof of the Opera House. If you double click, you may be able to see more closely.

Last time I visited Australia, I picked up one of Bill Granger's books- which I love. This time, a breakfast stop was made at bills. Tough decision, but I finally went with brown rice porridge with sweet white miso, coconut cream and mango. Really, how often does one want to order porridge for breakfast? The photo is of a cousin's Australian breakfast. Another Australian cookbook author (and food stylist) I love is Donna Hay, who's also got a lovely magazine. There was also a visit to Billy Kwong's just a couple doors down for dinner one evening. The food was amazing, different than the Chinese food I've been used to all my life (I suppose mine's been very Americanized). 
But the food in Australia is so beautiful and fresh- that's what I love about it.

St. Mary's Cathedral.

Nighttime walks along Darling Harbour are great, and on Saturdays during much of the year there are fireworks. Mövenpick ice cream makes for an amazing treat during the fireworks display.

Beautiful beaches at Cronulla. I think this is where my sunglasses case decided to make a home (no worries, just the case).

There's a big cafe culture in Australia...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Seared Scallops and Beurre Blanc

Fresh, meaty scallops, sweet and tasting of the sea are a nice treat.  
They're great as an appetizer, as a first course, or as a light dinner or lunch on a bed of spring greens.

Most of the time, having one small, perfect something is better than a lot of the same. 
There's some satisfaction in that, and things are certainly made more special. 

When selecting scallops, make sure they are fresh, white, firm, and practically odorless (at least they should be nowhere near "fishy" in scent.)

The key when handling scallops is keeping them fresh and cold, using them soon after purchase, and not overcooking them. Texture is superior when leaning more towards "silky" and less towards rubber
If quickly seared over a high heat, the scallops will gain a golden crust and retain their moist and tender interior.  

As fas a beurre blanc goes, it's a simple pan sauce, a classic French sauce, and great with seafood.
Like mayonnaise, beurre blanc is an emulsified sauce. However, instead of being an oil emulsion, it's a butter emulsion.
And, being a warm emulsion, the sauce can "break" (separate) if it becomes too hot. The good news is that it can be saved. A little cool water quickly whisked into the sauce should re-emulsify it.

Pan sauces are good tricks to have up your sleeve, and the nice thing is that you don't need a lot to gain great flavor.

Seared Scallops with Beurre Blanc
serves 12 as an appetizer, 4 as a light meal (maybe on a bed of spring greens)

12 large sea scallops
Freshly ground black pepper
9 T butter (127g), divided
1/3 c white wine (80 ml)
3 T white wine vinegar (45 ml)
2 T minced shallot (about 1 small shallot) (18g)
2 t fresh thyme, minced (1g)

Pat the scallops dry and remove the small ligament attached to the side of the scallop if present. Sprinkle scallops lightly with salt and pepper on both sides.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 T (14g) of butter. After the butter has melted, rotate the pan so that the butter coats the bottom of the pan. Add the scallops to the hot pan and sear until golden brown. Flip the scallops and sear on the other side until just cooked through (the scallops will only cook about 5 minutes total). Remove the scallops to a platter to rest. 
To the hot pan, add the white wine, white wine vinegar, and shallot. Cook the mixture, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate the caramelized bits, until the liquid is reduced to about 3 T. Add the thyme and stir through. Reduce the heat to low and carefully pour any scallop juices from the platter into the pan.  Add about half the remaining butter, stirring the mixture until it has completely melted. Remove the pan from the heat. Cut the remaining butter into 4 pieces and add them to the pan. Swirl the pan to mix the butter into the rest of the sauce. Plate scallops as desired and spoon sauce over the scallops.