Holiday Dishes Asian-Style

If you're looking for a holiday meal that's a little different, try a little Asian cooking at home.

Jaden Hair is author of "The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook: 101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough for Tonight's Dinner." She shared a few of her recipes you can try this holiday season.

Recipes Galore

Mashed Potatoes with Miso

My husband surprised me with a trip to Las Vegas for my birthday. We had the best splurge meal ever at a restaurant called Japonaise in the Mirage casino-Kobe Rib Eye with Miso Mashed Potatoes. While Kobe beef is pretty pricey to cook at home, the potatoes are totally do-able. Here's my version of those creamy, dreamy potatoes. Of course, you don't have to use truffle oil. Any good extra virgin olive oil will be just fine.

I like cooking with shiro miso (white) but any kind of miso will work. Just know that the darker the miso, the stronger the flavor and saltier as well. Start with 2 tablespoons and you can always whisk in more.

Serves 4 as part of multicourse meal

2lb (1kg) Yukon gold potatoes (or Russet), scrubbed
4 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons miso
1 cup (250 ml) whole or skim milk
Drizzle of truffle oil or good extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced chives

1. Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover by 1 inch (2.5cm) of water. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, until you can easily slip a pairing knife in and out through the middle. Drain.
2. Peel the potatoes. For the creamiest texture, pass the potatoes through a ricer or food mill into a bowl. Alternatively, you can use a handheld potato masher or just mash with a fork.
3. In the same saucepan, heat the butter and the garlic over medium heat. Once the butter starts bubbling and the garlic is fragrant, whisk in the miso until it is completely incorporated into the butter. Whisk in about 3/4 cup (185 ml) of the milk. Add the potatoes and stir. Add more milk a little at a time until you get the consistency that you want.
4. Finish with just a little drizzle of truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle on the chives.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Asian Pesto

The first time I made this dish, I was sooo excited that I ran circles in the
kitchen! I love having a few dishes in my repertoire that is so freakin' easy that my younger brother could handle (just kidding, he's actually a pretty good cook...and he's single and get this, he's a DOCTOR. Yeah. I'm totally accepting bids for his phone number!) If you want those fancy grill marks, first of all get a pan that has grill indentations. (Or grill outdoors on your BBQ grill). After preheating your grill pan or barbecue grill, lay the chops so that the bone points to ten o'clock.

Grill 1 1/2 minutes, then rotate the chops (do not flip) so that the bone points to two o'clock. After another 1 1/2 minutes, flip and do the same thing-lay them at ten o'clock, grill and then rotate to two o'clock. These chops go great with Mashed Potatoes with Miso.

SERVES 4 AS PART OF MULTICOURSE MEAL

2 lbs (1 kg) lamb chops (about 4 chops per person)
1/2 cup (125 ml) Asian Pesto

1. If the lamb chops come in a rack, cut apart the lamb chops between the bones into even pieces. Marinate the lamb chops in half of the Asian Pesto at room temperature for 15 minutes or overnight in refrigerator. Reserve the other half of the Asian Pesto.
2. Heat a large frying pan or grill pan on high heat. When very hot, add the lamb chops to the pan. Grill 3 minutes per side for medium rare.
3. To serve, spoon some of the reserved Asian Pesto on top of each of the lamb chops.

Asian Pesto

Pesto doesn't always have to be just boring basil. Jazz it up with a trio of herbs popular in Asian cooking-cilantro, mint and basil. Freeze what you don't use in small plastic resealable bags and defrost anytime you need a quick, flavorful topping to chicken, fish, lamb or noodles.

MAKES 1 CUP (250 ML)

3 cloves garlic
1 chili, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (40 g) unsalted, roasted peanuts
1/4 cup (8 g) fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves
1/2 cup (16 g) fresh Thai basil or sweet
Italian basil leaves
1/2 cup (16 g) fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (250 ml) cooking oil, divided

In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic, chilli and peanuts. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the fresh cilantro, basil, mint, lime juice, sugar, salt and 3 tablespoons of the oil. Process until the mixture becomes a coarse paste. Remove and stir in the remaining oil.

CHOCOLATE WONTONS

This is a type of dessert that will make little girls giggle and squeal with delight and little boys get down with a little disco dance. My kids will pout if I don't serve a few wrappers after I make wontons so that they can make a batch of these warm gooey chocolate wontons for dessert. It's so easy too. Just add a chunk of your favorite chocolate to the middle, seal and fry. Don't be too greedy though. A small piece of chocolate for each wonton is fine. If the chocolate nugget is too big, the wonton won't seal properly and the chocolate oozes out when frying. No chocolate = no happy kids.

Makes 12 Chocolate Wontons

1 egg
1 tablespoon water
12 wonton wrappers, defrosted (keep wrappers covered with damp towel)
12 pieces or nuggets of chocolate
High-heat for frying
Confectioners' sugar, for sprinkling

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash
2. On a clean, dry surface, lay 1 wrapper down with a point toward you like a diamond. Place 1 piece of chocolate near the top end of the wrapper. Brush a very thin layer of the egg wash on the edges of the wrapper. Fold the bottom corner of the wrapper up to create a triangle and gently press to remove all air from the middle. Press the edges to adhere the sides. Make sure the wrapper is sealed completely. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and chocolate pieces. Keep the folded chocolate wontons covered under plastic wrap or a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying.
3. In a wok or medium pot, pour in 2 inches (5 cm) of high-heat oil. Heat the oil to 350F (180C) and gently slide a few of the chocolate wontons into the hot oil. Make sure you don't crowd the chocolate wontons too much. Fry 1 ½ minutes, then flip and fry another minute until both sides are golden brown and crisp.

Passionfruit Chili Martini

On a recent trip to Club Med Ixtapa, Mexico, with my friend Diane and my brother Jay, I fell in love with a martini. It was my first love for a martini ever. I'm not a big martini fan, even when Sex and the City made the drink hip. While all my friends were ordering "chocolate martinis" I would stick to my boring but affordable house wine.

Until, I met Basti, the super-star bartender at Club Med. He created a chili martini that tickled my tongue and had me madly, crazily lusting after his shaker. Basti made his martini with peach juice, but I love my version with passion fruit juice.

SERVES 1

1 fresh chili, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
1/2 oz (15 ml) Simple Syrup (see below)
1 1/2 oz (45 ml) vodka
2 oz (60 ml) passion fruit juice
SIMPLE SYRUP
1 cup (250 ml) water
1 cup (250 g) sugar

1. To make the Simple Syrup, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool. Store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

2. In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker, crush one of the chili halves with just 1 tablespoon of the Simple Syrup-you can use a spoon or a muddler. The more you crush, the hotter the drink will be. Fill with ice and add the rest of the Simple Syrup, vodka and juice. Shake 30 seconds until chilled then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with the remaining chili half.

APPETIZERS & LITTLE BITES

Shrimp Chips with Spiced Beef and Crispy Shallots

When I was little, Mom used to fry up a big batch of these shrimp chips to snack on, usually when company came over or for special holidays. They are as light as air and the crunch that you can get is so loud! My brother and I would hide under the massive oak dining table and hoard a stash of shrimp chips and eat them.

But, of course, we chomped so loud that it wasn't long before mom found us and scolded us for eating too much fried stuff. Recently, we were having friends Shawn and Wendy over for dinner, and since Shawn is a big meat-lovin' guy, I topped the shrimp chips up with savory beef spiced with warming cinnamon and coriander. Shawn will tell you they were fantastic.

As I recall, he ate almost the entire batch by himself. The crispy fried shallots add a nice flavor and crunch but the chips are still great without them if you don't have any. You can either buy them in a plastic tub or glass jar at an Asian market or make your own.

If you don't want to top the shrimp chips, they're also great served alone and dipped into Peanut Dipping Sauce or Cashew Nut Dipping Sauce just like my Mom serves them!

SERVES 6 TO 8 AS AN APPETIZER OR SNACK

4 oz (125 g) uncooked Shrimp Chips or "Prawn Crackers"
High-heat cooking oil for frying
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 green onions (scallions), minced
1 lb (500 g) ground beef
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon Asian chilli powder or ground red pepper (cayenne)
(optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup (85 g) diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup (25 g) store-bought or homemade crispy fried shallots
(optional) (see Note)
Sriracha chili sauce, for the table (optional)

1. In a wok or pot, add 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of oil and turn the heat to high. When the oil reaches 375°F (190°C), add 4 to 5 shrimp chips at a time. They should puff up and fry up in just a few seconds. If the chips do not puff up immediately, your oil is not hot enough. If they begin to burn after a few seconds, your oil may be too hot. Remove once the chip has puffed up and drain on a baking rack. Be careful as you add the chips in - the oil is hot! Try sliding them in at the side of the wok or lowering them in with a big spoon or spider.

2. Set a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. When a bead of water sizzles and evaporates upon contact, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and green onions and fry until fragrant, about 15 to 30 seconds.

3. Add the ground beef, cinnamon, coriander and chilli powder, and fry until cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce, lime juice and sugar, stir well and continue to cook for an additional minute.

4. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon beef onto each shrimp chip "cup", top with the red bell pepper and, if desired, the crispy-fried shallots and Sriracha chili sauce.

NOTE: To make crispy fried shallots, slice 5-8 whole shallots very thinly. Deep-fry the shallots in hot oil (375°F/190°C) until golden brown. Remove immediately to avoid burning (they burn easily!) Store leftovers in an airtight container.
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