Monday, December 24, 2007

For New Year: Smoked Salmon Dip

We held our family Christmas dinner two days early this year because of two of our kids' travel and work schedules. Usually our Christmas Eve dinner, missed this year, includes smoked salmon and cream and pickled herring. We managed to have both salmon and herring in our hors d'oeuvre course for our early Christmas dinner. But this time the salmon was worked into an elegant yet quickly prepared dip for rye crisps and crackers.

While we had it before Christmas, by the time this blog posting gets out, there will only be time to make it for New Year's Eve. It goes well with a crisp, lightly acidic white wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc. (I prefer New Zealand, but they are also good from Australia and South Africa, plus the lucious but more expensive originals are from the Loire Valley in France, like "Sancerre".)

The recipe makes enough for multiple diners, but the prepared dip keeps well as a leftover. (And it goes well on breakfast toast, if you can believe that.) While we used crispy baked goods on which to spread the dip, I would guess thinly sliced cucumbers could be used as well.

Smoked Salmon Dip Tim

8 ounces smoked salmon
1 cup regular sour cream (or low- or no-fat can be used)
1 rounded teaspoon prepared horseradish
Probably no extra salt
A little freshly snipped dill

Coarsely cut the salmon, then puree it in a food processor, scraping the sides down from time to time. Add the sour cream and horseradish and process until smooth and creamy. Taste for salt (there should already be plenty from the salmon) and add a little salt only if needed. With a spatula scrape the mixture into a serving dish. Sprinkle with snipped dill.

Accompany with rye crisp wafers, thinly sliced baguette, or low salt crackers. Or try thinly sliced cucumber, cut on an angle.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thai Sweet-Sour Dipping Sauce: Helping Craig's bottom line

Recently I reconnected with my college roommate and fraternity "little brother", Craig. That's after nearly 45 years since last seeing or speaking with him. (Google is wondrous.) But I still don't comprehend how a 22-year old blond kid and surfer from Southern California can be a grandfather and agro businessman. It's like Rip Van Winkle.

Craig is a 5th-generation farmer in Ventura County, California, with hundreds of acres producing red chilies. His chilies, I was delighted to learn, are what make the increasingly famous Huy Fong chili-garlic sauce that is ubiquitous in Asian restaurants in the U.S. -- as well as at 'Donderos' Kitchen' international market and deli in Athens Georgia, plus the 'Istanbul Café' Turkish restaurant in Decatur, plus my home refrigerator for years. It's the sauce with the chicken on the front and the green top, with Vietnamese, Chinese, French and English on the lable. (I know from a French friend that the sauce is sold in France and used in Paris by his law student son.) This sauce, along with the related 'Siracha' and 'Sambal Oelek' chili sauces, is made in California by a Vietnamese-Chinese family who have been Craig's friends and colleagues for years. The chili-garlic sauce is in the Vietnamese-Chinese style, but in fact is fairly reminiscent of the Malaysian-Chinese chili-garlic sauce I have been making for home use since our days in Malaysia. It is also perfectly compatible with the Thai 'nam prik' dipping sauce.

We use the Huy Fong chili-garlic sauce straight on fried rice and noodles. But I also make a sweet-and-sour chili dipping sauce for hot spring rolls, grilled chicken, and other Thai Chinese dishes. In order to augment Craig's bottom line, here's my easy way of making the common dipping sauce that appears on Thai -- and my -- tables and at 'Donderos' Kitchen'.

The recipe will make a useful quantity. Leftovers keep well at room temperature until needed. Both the vinegar and the sugar are preservatives.

Thai-Chinese Sweet-Sour Chili Sauce Tim

1 cup white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and bruised
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 teaspoons Asian chili-garlic sauce (Huy Fong brand, green cap, chicken on label)

Place all the ingredients in a STAINLESS STEEL (not aluminum) pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1/2 minute. Let cool. Remove garlic.

Serve in small, shallow bowls for dipping. Store extra in a covered plastic or glass jar. Refrigeration is not necessary.