Mar 19, 2017

Shrimp and Grits (Serves as a Hearty Side Dish for 4 to 6 People)

Who else is a fan of grits? I've always fond of grits ever since I discovered the hearty cuisine of southern food. Whenever grits was spotted on the menu, soon after it'll show up on my table. However, I didn't start cooking it myself till a couple of years ago, and fell even deeper in love with such easy to handle ingredient. 

My all time favorite variety will always be a simple cheese grits. It's warming, fulfilling, and what's even better is the creamy cheese melted throughout the naturally sweet grits. But for this shrimp and grits recipe, grits is more like a supporting roll for the flavorful toppings. So the seasonings for the grits are toned down, but providing volume, in a way kind of like rice served alongside of broccoli beef stir-fry.

Shrimp and grits -


Grits -

  • 1/2 cup coarsely ground grits
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sharp Cheddar cheese

Toppings -

  • 8 to 12 whole shrimps, peeled, deveined
  • 3 chorizo or spicy sausages
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Some chopped scallion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Some salt
  • Some freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock


Pour 1 1/2 cups water along with 1/2 cup grits to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Make sure to whisk the mixture once a while to prevent the grits from lumping and sticking to the bottom of the pan. 

Simmer for a short moment then pour in heavy whipping cream, keep whisking constantly and still keep the mixture at a simmer. Cook till the grits turn soft and creamy with texture similar to Chinese porridge. Set aside and wait till the topping is almost ready before adding the Cheddar.

Meanwhile, marinate peeled and deveined shrimps with lemon juice and smoked paprika, just simple seasonings. Marinate for about 10 minutes. The shrimps will suck in that refreshing lemony aroma, even after cooking with other heavy tasting seasonings.

Peel and slice the onion. Prepare the yellow bell pepper and slice it too. Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves. 

Prepare another pan or medium pot, drizzle in some oil and turn to medium high heat. Once the oil turns warm, add in the sausages and sear till slightly browned. Scoop out the sausages and set aside.

Using the same pan or pot, add in sliced onion, bell pepper, chopped garlic, small pinch of salt, and small pinch of black pepper. Drizzle a little bit more olive oil if not enough oil left when searing the sausages. Give it a quick stir and cook till the onion turns slightly browned. Transfer the sausages and shrimps to the mixture and cook till nearly done.

Meanwhile, prepare a small or medium saucepan and add in the butter. Using medium heat to melt the butter then pour in the flour. Cook the floor till it forms a paste, continue to stir and cook till the mixture turns medium browned. Keep an eye on it because this roux can get burned easily. Lower the heat a little if needed.

When the roux is ready, add it to the shrimps and sausages mixture. Also pour in the chicken stock and the Worcestershire sauce. Gently mix together all the ingredients, the texture should start turning gravy-like. 

While tending all these pans and pots in the kitchen, take a moment and pay attention to the grits. Add in the sharp Cheddar and keep whisking or stirring till fully incorporated. Taste and adjust the flavor with salt, about 1/2 teaspoon should do the trick. 

Scoop some grits to the serving plate then transfer the toppings over. Sprinkled some freshly ground black pepper and garnish with chopped scallion.

This recipe can serve as a side dish or even as a hearty brunch on the weekend. 

There are so many more grits variations and I already set my mind onto something, a savory grits bar, that way I can munch on grits with my fingers!

Other grits recipe:

Mar 15, 2017

EDVARD - Perhaps Two Michelin Stars Are Just Right Around the Corner

Incredibly addicting burnt butter spread not only marked the highlight of the night, but also a long-lasting aromatic treasure that made us drooling over it throughout the trip in Austria.

Took a little break and traveled to Austria, had a wonderful foodie moment while in the capital city Vienna and deeply relaxing time while in Hallstatt - one of the world heritage sites that I dreamt about going for years. While planning to put up some Hallstatt pictures on my Chinese blog, culinary adventures will be published on both English and Chinese websites. But first of all, here's how I came to a decision on which Michelin restaurants to dine in Vienna.

Besides the hidden gems or locals' favorites not yet discovered by Michelin or not qualified to be on the prestigious list, often times I'd pick one or two Michelin restaurants to try while traveling. It's kind of a quality assurance and so far never a disappointment. 

First thing first, pull out a list of destination Michelin restaurants from the website. Filter by types of cuisine, number of stars, and location. Then it's time to dig a little bit deeper, visit these places' official websites and find out their actual opening hours and what's on the menu. Play around the schedule and make sure to leave at least 2 to 3 hours dining time, that's the minimum time slot to ensure that you won't rush through the meal, and very likely an unforgettable culinary adventure.

A sense of warmth was the first impression when stepping in EDVARD, this one-star Michelin restaurant located in a luxury hotel Palais Hansen Kempinski. The manager welcomed us with a sincere smile on her face, despite that fact that we had to call in and told the restaurant that we'll be about one hour late, blamed it on jet lag. 

Glad we made it, otherwise we would have missed perhaps the best buttery spread never experienced before.

I know I kept emphasizing the little spread and ignoring all other dishes. Don't get me wrong, the food was great, more than great actually, not mentioning the friendly services received that night, just somehow the burnt butter aroma still lingers after the trip. It was something that hit me the most, which is a rare encounter even after dining at quite a number of top-rated restaurants.

So quickly settled in, we started the night with local sparking wine from Weingut Bründlmayer -

Two degustation sets were available, one leaning towards the land, and one towards the sea. We both went for the more meaty carnivorous option with four course wine pairing -

Little nibbles before the meal, burrata/grape fruit -

Périgord truffle/brioche -

And this was the powerful combo that kept me thinking about it for days and weeks -

EDVARD provides the recipe to a local bakery Josef's, and have them bake the crispy bread. "It's a very popular bakery in Vienna", said the restaurant manager.

The bread can stand-alone by itself with slightly yeasty and almost beer-like aroma. The more you chewed on it, the more flavor depths started to surface.

That mellow and graceful scent transformed into a powerful punch when burnt butter spread came into the picture. Charred butter with sprinkles of pancetta, just imaging caramel-like sweetness, creamy, yet with a touch of salty crunch in one bite. The only regret that night was not being able to ask for extra bread and burnt butter spread, damned my limited tummy space, and jet lag.

This combo along worth a visit to EDVARD, no kidding. 

Complimentary dish, lamb/parsnip root -

Seemed like a few dishes already, but the plate followed was actually our first course, beef/cauliflower/juniper/onion -

Beef was much more tender than regular carpaccio. The onion carried a hint of honey sweetness. The creamy white paste on the bottom had a texture in between puree and foam, very comforting in terms of texture and flavor. However, my favorite component was these little crunchy florets. They were like that extra crunchy edge on a fried chicken and soaked with salty aromatics.

And our first wine pairing FP Bical & Arinto was served.

Jerusalem artichoke/sour cream/caviar -

The flavor was much like poached gobo, or burdock root, a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It had a tiny bitter tone but then rounded out by sour cream. Our first wine pairing, a Portuguese white wine carried many identical profiles with this dish, a well-matched food and wine complimented one another.

Pink prawn/lobster foam/chicory/tarragon/orange -

Torched aroma was the first impression, followed by a good balance between sweetness and bitterness. Surprisingly, the sweetness was not from the orange, but from the prawn. And the orange was actually the bitter agent, a fun dish indeed.

Then it came our second wine, 2013 Planeta Etna Rosso with 100% Nerello Mascalese variety. Took a sniff and the scent of strawberry can be picked up right away. It was much more complex on the palate, with expressive red fruit and layers of spices.

Veal belly/black salsify/bitter salads -

I think it's probably my first time having black salsify, couldn't quite distinguished the flavors. That means more black salsify dishes to come in the future so I can get a feel of it.

The veal belly was beyond tender, felt like the nearly melted fat was trying very hard holding up the shape.

Then it came our sommelier with a bottle of Austrian red wine. "All Austrian red wines should taste like this," he said. This is the wine that represents the terrior of Austria. It was 2012 Blaufränkisch LEITHABERG DAC from Lichtenberger González.

Put the old barrel, pepper, and spices aside, what's more attention catching was some love floating in the air.  

Stilton blue/fig/thyme -

A change of taste signaled our heavier main course ahead.

Venison/turnip/spruce/cranberries -

Indeed it was the heaviest seasoned dish of the night, there was also a touch of earthiness, perhaps from the spruce on the venison. The acidity from the cranberry sauce balanced off all the strong-tasting components. 

This course truly felt like a fall/winter dish, provided a sense of warmth. 

Coconut cream and ice cream/granola/yuzu - 

All managed with a touch of salt. It's not the dense creamy kind of coconut dessert, but more of an airy refreshing prelude for the main dessert to come.

Our last wine pairing, 2010 Château Bessan Sauternes -

Cox orange/Sichuan pepper/walnut/caramel -

Fooled by the texture, I would have thought that centerpiece was a pear instead of an orange. Fooled by the name, I realized that cox orange is in fact an apple. How confusing but hey, it was fun!

Love the use of Sichuan pepper, it only provided the aroma without the usual numbing sensation.

Petit four, cappuccino macaron/mini pistachio cake/yogurt coated hazelnut/pineapple jelly -

We were way too full, otherwise the yogurt-flavored hazelnut would be gone in minutes. I was shocked by how sourish it tasted, but that surprise only lasted for 5 seconds then quickly turned into gentle yogurt aroma. 

The restaurant also prepared a sweet little gift to take home with -

A little end note, I searched the Internet regarding tipping in Austria. While most of the top listed sites saying that you only need to round up the bill, like $27 and make it $30, it's not the case at all. 

Throughout the trip we've only had one restaurant gave us a bill with 10% service fee included. Just to be safe, it's always wise to check the bill and see if any service fee has already been added. If not, give and take 8% to 10% tip is always a nice gesture when the service is on par or excellent. I also asked the front desk guy at a local hotel to double check on the tipping custom for reassurance. 

EDVARD currently holds one Michelin star status. 


Schottenring 24
1010 Wien, Osterreich
(Inside Palais Hansen Kempinski Wien)
+43 1 236 1000 8082
Official website: EDVARD

Opening hours: 
Tuesday through Saturday 6:00 p.m. ~ 10:00 p.m.

Mar 7, 2017

Duck Breast and Garlic Sprouts Stir-Fry (蒜苗炒鴨胸)

Found a piece of duck breast sitting in the fridge. If serving it as an entrée, the portion is more than enough for one person but then quite little for two people. So instead of simply searing the breast and served with some kind of balsamic and fig reduction sauce, Chinese stir-fry might be a more suitable option. 

*Balsamic and fig reduction sauce sounds yummy though, that means I'll just have to buy more duck breast next time.

Duck breast and garlic sprouts stir-fry -


  • 1 or about 200 grams duck breast 
  • 1 bundle garlic sprouts
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 big red chilies
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine
  • Small pinch granulated sugar
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper


Cut the garlic sprouts into about 2-inch long sections. Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves. Discard the chili stems and cut the remaining section diagonally. 

Sprinkle some salt and pepper on both sides of the duck breast. Let the meat sit in room temperature for about 5 to 10 minutes before searing.

Prepare a pan and turn to medium high heat. Transfer the duck breast over with skin side down. There is no need to drizzle extra oil since the duck skin will starts to render quite some fat during the process.

Sear till the skin side turns slightly browned and the fat has rendered. Some prefer to sear the breast till no more fat remains under that crunchy skin, but it's not necessary for this stir-fry recipe.

Flip the breast to the other side and sear till almost cooked through. Remove from heat and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice and set aside for later use.

Use the same pan but pour out any excess oil, leaving just about 1 to 2 tablespoons of fat. You can use the leftover oil for other stir-fry dishes or bake root vegetables. 

Turn to medium high heat and wait till the oil turns hot. Add in chopped garlic, chilies, and garlic sprouts. Give it a quick stir and wait till that garlicky aroma starts to permeate the kitchen. 

Pour in some rice cooking wince and sprinkle some salt and sugar. Taste and adjust the flavor with salt and sugar. Sugar can balance off the saltiness and provides more depth to the dish, but use no more than 1 teaspoon for this recipe.

Transfer the duck breast slices back to the mixture and give it a quick stir again. Once the meat is fully cooked through, transfer to a serving plate.

If you pump up the salt and chilies, this duck breast stir-fry actually serves well as a beer food/otsumami. You can also substitute the meat with store-bought smoked duck breast and skip the searing part. 

Other duck breast recipes: