KPCCRadio (via YouTube)
Oh moms, what have you wrought in our kitchens? Lots of delicious creativity, based on comments from L.A. food writers and restaurant owners.
Our foodie panelists got together at the Crawford Family Forum May 8 to talk about ways their moms (or other family members) have influenced their cooking. Some said their moms and grandmoms are an impossible act to follow, while others have learned more from dad’s adventurous — if not always successful — cooking.
One thing they all stressed is that budding cooks need to dive in, start trying new recipes, and be unafraid of the outcome. You can always try again!
Here are recipes from our panelists, plus a few words of cooking wisdom.
Jenn Harris is a food writer for the Los Angeles Times and co-host of the “Forkin’ Amazing” radio show.
On how to become a cook: “I grew up watching the Food Network a lot. I watched a lot of Rachael Ray so I know how to use a garbage bowl…. Try some recipes. Don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s OK if you make something and it’s bad.”
On the impossibility of getting an accurate recipe from her grandmother, her family’s cooking matriarch: “She’d say, ‘Oh, just add a little of this or a little of that.’ I had to literally measure things from her hand to capture her sweet rice recipe.”
Sweet rice recipe
Total time: 55 minutes, plus soaking time
Note: My grandma uses Sho-Chiku-Bai brand sweet rice. The rice, light soy sauce, lop cheong (Chinese sausage) and dried black mushrooms are available at Chinese markets.
- 3 cups sweet rice
- 6 dried black mushrooms
- 2 ounces dried shrimp
- 6 cups boiling water, plus extra for rinsing and soaking the rice, mushrooms and shrimp
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Chinese-style sausages (lop cheong), diced
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can of chicken broth, divided
- 1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, or to taste
1. Prepare the rice: In a large bowl, rinse the rice under cool running water, gently swirling it with your hands until the water runs clear. Shut off the water, and leave the rice to sit in the water for 2 hours, then drain the rice, leaving it in the bowl.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, soak the mushrooms in enough water to cover until softened, about 45 minutes. Drain the water (dispose of it, or save the liquid for another use), discard the stems and dice the mushrooms. Set aside.
3. Rinse the dried shrimp, then place them in a small bowl. Soak the shrimp in enough water to cover until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain the shrimp.
4. Pour the 6 cups of boiling water over the drained rice to cover. Set the rice aside for 15 minutes, then drain the rice again.
5. In a large nonstick wok or a large pan with fairly high sides, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Add the garlic, sausage, mushrooms and shrimp. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the sausage and shrimp are lightly caramelized and the garlic is very fragrant, several minutes. Add the rice and stir to thoroughly combine.
6. Stir 3 to 4 tablespoons of chicken broth in with the rice, then cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and repeat until the rice is soft and sticky (similar to cooking risotto); you may not use all of the chicken broth.
7. Season to taste with the soy sauce and the white pepper, stirring to combine and marry the flavors. Serve immediately.
Each serving: 452 calories; 20 grams protein; 77 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 6 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 66 mg cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 599 mg sodium.
This recipe was originally published to the LA Times here.
On trying to follow her mother’s perfect cooking and choose her best dish: “I can’t really say one dish. Her mole is a specialty at our restaurant and the best I’ve ever had in my life, but she can just make a sunny-side-up egg and it will be the most amazing egg in the world. She just knows how to make everything taste so good….It’s hard to make and pass along her recipes because she’ll always say, ‘Oh, it’s really easy,’ and then three and a half hours later you’re still trying to make it work….”
On chapolines (grasshoppers) being a regular item at her restaurant: “It’s just one of the things I grew up with. I’ve been eating them since I was 3, so I don’t think it’s weird...They’re very salty so I always encourage people to use them as a garnish, sprinkle them on tacos and with beans they’re amazing. We just sauté them with olive oil, lime and salt. Honestly, I eat at my restaurant every single day, and sometimes I’ll just sit down and have tortillas, grasshoppers and cheese, and they’re really good.
Mama’s Pozole Verde (Green Pozole)
- 8 cups of chicken broth
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cups of cooked hominy
- 2 lbs tomatillo, de-husked and quartered
- 2 cups of cilantro leaves
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup white onion, roughly chopped
- 2-3 chiles serranos, minced, deseeded
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup sesame seed, toasted
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
- 2 corn tortillas
- 1 1/2 lbs shrimp
- Kosher salt
- A bunch of radishes, thinly sliced
- 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
- Dry oregano
- A couple dozen tostadas
1. Fill a medium stockpot with 5 cups of the chicken broth, bay leaves and hominy. Set stockpot on heat to bring to a simmer.
2. Add to a blender the toasted sesame seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, tortillas and 2 cups of chicken broth, puree until smooth and add to stockpot.
3. Prepare the green salsa by pureeing in a blender the reserved 1 cup of chicken broth, tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, onions and chiles until smooth.
4. Heat a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the green pureed salsa and cinnamon stick until the salsa thickens, about 15 minutes. Reserve.
5. Add salsa verde to the stockpot and simmer for 10 more minutes. Adjust seasonings and add salt if necessary.
6. Add shrimp and cook until the shrimp start turning pink, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and serve into deep bowls, top with garnish and serve with tostadas.
This recipe was originally published on Lopez' blog, where she writes about Oaxaca food and travel.
On his cooking influences: “My dad was the cook in the family. It’s easy to remember my mom’s best recipes because she had so few…..She would make ‘American fried rice’ with bacon…”
On the best way to learn how to cook: “Be curious and try things that maybe aren’t familiar….That’s how I get inspiration, I eat out and then try to figure out how to make it at home. Start by making things you like, and then figure out how to make it better. If you’re cooking just to eat, you don’t become as adventurous, have to be curious and...start trying other things.”
On sharing his recipes...NOT: I don’t like to share. I’ll tell people how to make (a recipe) but I’ll leave out one important ingredient because I just don’t like to give out my secrets.”
I Would Do Anything For... Meatloaf
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork or turkey
- 1 bell pepper chopped
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 packet onion soup mix
- handful seasoned bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 can diced tomatoes
1. Season meat to taste with salt, garlic powder, black pepper
2. Add remaining ingredients. Mix, then form into a loaf.
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 small can of tomato sauce
- Honey, to taste
1. Mix together and pour over loaf. Bake uncovered in nonstick pan at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Nguyen Tran runs Starry Kitchen in the Grand Star Jazz Club in Chinatown, the new location for the restaurant he and his wife chef Thi Tran started (illegally) out of the back of their North Hollywood apartment in 2009.
On learning how to cook: “If you’re a person who throws caution to the wind, then totally experiment. Be sure to taste as you go along, and know it can be fixed or adjusted, or you might stumble on something you never thought about…It can blow your mind how one little thing can change the entire outcome...but if that’s too much, if you’re more cerebral (than experimental) then go bake. Baking is structured and it’s a good way to start. You just have to wait for the outcome….and fear what will happen.”
His notes on his favorite Mom recipe, shared below: “In Vietnamese it's called ‘Thit Kho’ but we called it Braised Coconut Pork It's a dish that EVERY VIETNAMESE KID knows, but you cannot find often in restaurants at all. It's commoners’ food.. and oh SO DELICIOUS!!”
Starry Kitchen Thit Kho
- 2 lbs of pork picnic/shoulder or pork belly
- 3 or more eggs (whatever your preference)
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 4 slices of ginger
- 2 Tbsp of minced yellow or white onions
- 2 Tbsp of minced lemongrass (frozen or fresh: if fresh, use the white parts only )
- 2 Tbsp of Chinese "light" soy sauce (I use Pearl River Bridge brand)
- 1.5 Tbsp of Chinese "dark" soy sauce (I use Pearl River Bridge brand)
- 1/4 cup of Coke ;
- 1/2 can of coco soda (I use Coco Rico) or coconut juice (about 3/4 cup)
- 3/4 cup of chicken broth
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1/4 cup of coconut milk (I prefer Kara brand, but you can use whatever's available to you) 1.5 Tbsp of fish sauce (I prefer 3 Crab brand)
- 1 Tbsp of thick caramel sauce or you can make your own (instructions below) with 3 Tbsp of sugar and 2 Tbsp of water
- Some palm sugar or rock sugar
1. Cut meat into cubes (around 1" x 1" pieces, not too big)
2. Boil a pot of water (enough for all the meat you cut), and then pre-boil the cubed pork for 5 mins with 2 slices of ginger.
3. Remove the pork and rinse (and make sure to fully cool all pieces) under cold water to wash away the scum. Set aside
4. In a saucepan, saute the remainder of the 2 slices of ginger, minced garlic, minced onions, and lemongrass until fragrant. Set aside.
5. To make your own caramel sauce, On medium heat, combine sugar and water in a sauce pan and allow it to melt. Once the sugar melts completely, the mixture will slowly start to turn a golden brown color. Keep swirling the pan until the caramel becomes a light brown color. Remove from heat and set aside.
6. In a pot, combine the Chinese light soy sauce, Chinese dark soy sauce, fish sauce, and caramel sauce with the cubed pork. Toss well and add the sauteed ingredients.
7. Add all the liquids (coke, coco soda or coconut juice, chicken broth, water, and coconut milk) to the pot. Make sure the liquid covers the meat. Turn on high heat and wait until it boils, once it boils, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 1 hour.
8. Meanwhile, boil the eggs separately. Boil them for 8-9 mins.
9. When they are ready, immediately chill the eggs in an ice water bath (or else they will be hard to peel), once chilled, remove the shells and set aside
10. Add the eggs into the pot after 1 hour of cooking the pork, and braise for 1 more hour or until tender. Total time of cooking should be 2 hours.
11. Add and dissolve palm/rock sugar to taste. It should be a little sweet, but not too sweet.
12. Garnish with some scallions or cilantro
13. Enjoy with steamed rice or bread. Top with the stew and enjoy a lil piece of Vietnamese deliciousness in your mouth.
On how her life in a punk-rock band influenced her cooking: "We used to tour all over, and most of the dishes I have at Auntie Em’s were inspired by the food we ate. This was before Yelp or Google, so we would ask the locals at the club, ‘Where’s the best oyster place in Baltimore?’ ...We were all foodies in the band; it’s hilarious, here we were, these tough punk-rock chicks on tour, but in the van between shows we were reading ‘Bon Appetit,’ ‘Gourmet’ magazine and Martha Stewart."
On her favorite Mom recipe, shared below: “I sometimes make these at the restaurant in my homemade chicken soup, but mostly I do them at my house for breakfast….These aren’t in my cookbook; this recipe is just for you!”
Mom's Crepes with Lemon and Powdered Sugar
- 3 med or 2 ex. lg. eggs
- 2 cups low fat milk
- 1/2 c. water
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- Zest of 1 lemon (opt.)
- 4 Tbs. melted sweet butter
- 2 c. a/p flour
- 3 Tbs. sugar.
1. Whisk eggs, vanilla, milk, water and butter together. Whisk in flour, sugar until lump free. If too thick add a bit more water.
2. Place a 10-inch nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add a few drops of canola oil, roll pan around to lightly coat the bottom.When hot, pour in about 1/3 c. batter and quickly turn the skillet with some wrist action to coat the entire bottom evenly.
3. When the edges of the crepe start to curl and crisp up, turn the crepe with a spatula and lightly brown the other side. Move to a warm plate and repeat with remaining batter. These can then be filled with jam, fruit, or sweetened cheese, as a dessert, or with chicken and cooked vegetables for a savory meal.
4. Terri says her favorite use of these crepes is to roll cooled crepes into cylinders, slicing them into thin strips and adding them to chicken or beef broth with vegetables and topped with chopped chives.
What are your favorite recipes from mom? Tell us in comments.
With contributions from Jeanette Marantos.