• erin

    Dumplings with my family
    A recent graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, I found myself with no money, no kitchen equipment, and an exceptionally huge appetite. Ideas, improvisations, and yummy meal solutions were discovered in the kitchen of my very first apartment.
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    I've been getting a lot of requests and suggestions for the apartment kitchen. I LOVE these suggestions, keep them coming!

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Steamed Pork Buns

This is one of my all-time favorite foods. It’s a perfect combination of meat and dough that is delicious enough to be a meal but casual enough to be eaten with your hands. I first fell in love with these at Momofuku in New York City. While the steamed bun is Chinese in origin, there are a variety of Asian influences in the modern bun.

Many restaurants buy their buns and only make the fillings fresh, as the process for the perfect steamed bun is a little complicated. But fresh buns are so delicious, as I discovered in my quest to make my own last year. Though they are traditionally made with Hong Kong flour, my version used cake flour, which is much easier to find.

These buns are easy and delicious with any kind of filling, and are the perfect answer to leftover meat in your fridge – shred a roasted chicken, dice up some steak, or, as I did, peel the tender meat off of some delicious pork ribs. 


Apartment-Worthy Kitchen Equipment

Yesterday I bought my first piece of new, somewhat specialized piece of equipment for the apartment kitchen. I don’t have a lot of money or space to buy new things, but I am a foodie at heart. This means any equipment I invest in has to be practical, inexpensive, and have multiple uses.

Which is precisely why my first purchase was a bamboo steamer. Priced as low as $9 – $17 dollars, these steamers are great for a number of uses in the kitchen. They’re easy to use, relatively compact (can range in size from 3″ – 20″ in circumference), and can be utilized in a number of ways: steaming vegetables, meats, fish, dim sum, dumplings, and even for baked goods such as breads, puddings, and cakes.

These can be purchased at kitchen supply stores, Asian markets, and even specialty grocery stores. At $15, my 10 inch bamboo steamer was an excellent investment, and I can’t wait to use it.

Chicken and Corn Enchiladas

I often talk about food that won’t have a lot of leftovers, or that will make an interesting array of leftovers.  But sometimes, there are times when I want leftovers.  That’s when I turn to fantastically craveable food: food that re-heats perfectly, that holds well, and that you won’t mind eating for a couple of days.  

For me, one of those foods are enchiladas.  This year, my family ate my mother’s delicious enchiladas on Christmas Eve.  In a fit of homesickness, I ran to the store and bought everything I’d need to make them, apartment kitchen style.  I wanted to make chicken and corn enchiladas, so I used ground chicken and canned corn for simplicity.  It made a full tray of enchiladas that will sit in my fridge for whenever I need them over the busy weekend.

Chicken and Corn Enchiladas
Serves many.
Leftover Potential: Excellent.  Will provide up to 5 meals.

1 Tbsp oil
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 bunch scallions, sliced on the bias
1 (15 oz) can corn
1/2 pound ground chicken
salt, as needed
pepper, as needed
1 tsp cayenne pepper

grated cheese, as needed
12 corn tortillas, or as needed ***
1 large can or 25 oz. homemade enchilada sauce
red onions, for garnish
scallions, for garnish

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.  In a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, and cook until translucent.  Add the garlic, and cook until aromatic.
3.  Add the corn and cook until browning slightly.  Add the scallions, and cook until wilted slightly.
4.  Next, add the ground chicken.  Cook until browned and cooked through.  Season as needed with salt and pepper, and add the cayenne pepper.  
5.  Remove the chicken mixture from the heat.  Place a lice of filling into a corn tortilla.  Top generously with grated cheese, then wrap tightly and place onto a baking sheet.
6.  Continue this until all of the filling has been used, being careful to wrap the enchiladas as carefully as possible to keep the filling inside the tortillas.
7.  Top with the enchilada sauce, spreading a layer evenly over all enchiladas.  Top with more cheese.  
8.  Bake in the oven until sauce in bubbling, cheese is melted, and enchiladas are heated all the way through.  
9.  Serve on hot plates, garnished with red onions and scallions.

*** Flour tortillas can be easier to work with, because they roll a little bit better.  But I like the texture of corn tortillas, so I used them.  No matter which tortilla you use, it can help to heat the tortillas in a pan on the stovetop or in the microwave, which will soften them, making them easier to roll.

Whole Wheat Sausage, Pear, Fig, and Parmesan Tart

One of the best things about working at a culinary school is the access to great ingredients.  Produce, meats, cheese, and anything else you can think of is the freshest it can be.  My favorite thing to do with great ingredients is keep it simple.  This, of course, is especially great in the apartment kitchen, where I don’t have a lot to work with.

Even though I have access to unique ingredients, you can emulate a simple dish like this with whatever you have on hand, or whatever looks especially fresh or great in the grocery store.  Splurge a little for organic produce or take a trip to a specialty market.  Buy things that are fresh and seasonal, and make flavor combinations that highlight the best in the product. 

Whole Wheat Sausage, Pear, Fig, and Parmesan Tart

Served 2.
Leftover Potential: Reheats easily, though crust may not be quite as crisp.  Also delicious cold.  We had 1 slice left.

Whole Wheat Crust:
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp yeast
3/4 cups warm water (110-115 degrees F)

olive oil, as needed

1.  Combine the flours, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast on top, and mix completely to combine.
2.  Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the water.  Mix to combine completely, then remove from bowl and knead until smooth.  By hand this should take about 3-5 minutes.
3.  Place the finished dough back in the bowl, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.  
4.  Coat a cookie sheet or pizza pan well with olive oil.  Put the dough onto the pan and use your hands to spread the dough out across the sheet.  Use your fingers to stipple the dough to make it even and pull it to the size and thickness you want.  I made a thin, crisp crust, but a thicker, chewier crust could be achieved with this dough also.

Finished Tart:
5 figs, thinly sliced
1 pear, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 sausages, precooked, sliced thinly
parmesan cheese, as needed

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Evenly spread the ingredients across the tart dough.  
3.  Finely grate the parmesan across the dough.  Use as much or as little as you wish, but the cheese will add a saltiness and help bind the ingredients to the tart.
4.  Bake until the edges are golden brown and crisp, about 15-20 minutes.

Kung Pao Chicken

It snowed all day Sunday.  Even though we got plowed at noon, my housemate still had to shovel at 5, and Matt and I had to shovel this morning.  On a day that cold and snowy, nothing feels better than staying inside.  And to keep warm, we spiced up the afternoon with some Kung Pao chicken.  The perfect Sunday food – and the take-out drivers will thank you!

Kung Pao Chicken

Served 2.
Leftover Potential:  Just as good if not better than the Chinese food that comes in a box.  Made 2 meals after the initial dinner.

1 lb chicken, cut into bite size pieces
salt, as needed
pepper, as needed
flour, as needed

1 Tbsp oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp ginger, finely sliced
10 dried chilis, split, seeded, and cut in half
1/4 cup soy sauce
5 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup water, or as needed

1.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Dip lightly in flour.  Set aside.
2.  In a large pan or a wok, heat the oil over medium heat.
3.  Add the onions, and cook until translucent.  Add the garlic.  Stir fry for about a minute.
4.  Add the mushrooms, bell pepper, scallions, ginger, and dried chilis and stir fry over medium heat.
5.  Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil.  Stir fry to create an even sauce.  Add the chicken, and stir fry until the chicken is tender and cooked through.  Add water as needed to thin sauce so as to coat the chicken.
6.  Serve in warm bowls with rice.

Healthy Wings? Well, Healthier…

I came upon the idea for this recipe on another food blog. Baked chicken wings. I have always thought of chicken ways in one way: grilled. I wasn’t familiar with the concept of fried chicken wings until I came to college. My family likes to grill chicken wings before dousing them in sauce. For this reason, I tend to not eat lot of wings when I can’t turn the grill on. Not to mention, the aparment kitchen (or the apartment back yard) currently doesn’t have a grill. But baked? I can do that any old time. So when chicken wings went on sale this week at the grocery store, there was no doubt in my mind we were going to snatch them up.

We finished the chicken with a thick pineapple-soy glaze that was the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. It was really fast and we basked in the glow of each beautiful wing as though it was summer. Proving, you don’t need 75 degree weather or a grill to have a good time. Especially if you add a cold beer to the mix.

Pineapple-Soy Glazed Wings  

Served 2. 


Leftover Potential: I’m not sure how these would re-heat because of the sauciness. Needless to say, we didn’t have any leftovers.

Baked Chicken Wings 
3 pounds chicken wings 
salt, as needed 
pepper, as needed 
flour, as needed  

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Break down the chicken wings if need be. 
2. Season with chicken wings with salt and pepper. Toss the seasoned chicken in flour to coat. 
3. Spread the wings out on a baking sheet, spacing them as evenly as possible. 
4. Bake the chicken wings for 12-15 minutes before turning each wing and baking another 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. 
5. Meanwhile, make the glaze.  

Pineapple-Soy Glaze
1 can crushed pineapple 

3-4 Tbsp soy sauce, or more as needed 
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar 
1 tsp ginger 
1 clove garlic, finely minced 
1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes *** 
1 Tbsp cornstarch 
1/2 cup water 
1 bunch scallions, finely sliced 
cilantro, chopped, for garnish 
lime wedges, for garnish  

1. In a small pot combine the pineapple, soy, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat. 
2. Make a slurry with the water and cornstarch. Add the slurry to the simmering pineapple mixture, and bring to a boil. 
3. Finish with 1/2 of the scallions. Taste the sauce for flavor, adding more ingredients as needed. 
4. Strain or puree the mixture. This gets rid of the chunks of pineapple, creating a smooth glaze for the wings. 
5. Toss the hot wings in the glaze to coat. Garnish with more scallions, cilantro, and lime wedges.

Mushroom Farro Risotto with Grilled Chicken

I love this healthier version of risotto. Using a whole grain instead of arborio rice works incredibly well, while keeping you true to your New Year’s resolution. Farro has enough starch in it to release to creamy perfection when cooked, just like the rice used to make risotto. The result is delicious – rich and smooth.
I flavored this risotto with mushrooms and leeks and topped it with grilled chicken. Farro and other grains take a little while to cook, so it’s best for a weekend meal. But finished with a little freshly grated parmesan cheese – it’s well worth the wait.

Mushroom Farro Risotto with Grilled Chicken

Served 2.
Leftover Potential:  You can cook just the amount of chicken breast that you need.  There was enough risotto left for a snack after the initial dinner.

Mushroom Farro Risotto
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 leeks, finely sliced
1 1/4 cup farro
1/4 cup white wine
2 1/2 – 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 tbsp butter ***
parmesan cheese, grated, to taste***

1.  In a large, tall pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  In another pot, heat the stock over medium low heat.  This will help your risotto cook faster, as the liquid will be warm already and won’t take time to heat in the cooking pot.
2.  Add the onion to the first pot and cook until translucent.
3.  Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.  Add the leeks and cook until beginning to wilt.
4.  Add the farro and cook briefly, stirring to combine with the other ingredients.  Add the wine and reduce over medium heat until completely gone, stirring constantly.
5.  Begin adding the stock in ladlefuls.  Allow to reduce almost completely (stirring constantly) before adding more stock.  Continue adding stock until the farro begins to get tender.
6.  Add the mushrooms, stir to combine.  Allow the mushrooms to become tender.
7.  Season with salt and pepper.
8.  Finish with butter, stirring to combine, and grated parmesan cheese.

*** You can leave these items out for a healthier option, but they really add a delicious creaminess to the dish. 

Grilled Chicken
2 chicken breasts
salt, as needed
pepper, as needed
flour, as needed to coat
1-2 tbsp olive oil

1.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and coat lightly with flour.
2.  In a medium saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  When hot, add the chicken and allow to cook until beginning to gain color, about 3 minutes, before turning over and finishing cooking on the other side.  The chicken should feel slightly firm to the touch.
3.  Slice the chicken on the bias, and serve on top of the risotto.  You can also top the dish with sliced pepperocini peppers, which add a little bit of acidity and spice.