Loco Moco (Hawaiian Beef and Rice Bowl)

1 pound ground beef, at least 15 to 20 percent fat
1 medium Maui or yellow onion, peeled (1/4 of the onion chopped; 3/4 sliced)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more as needed
2 1/2 tablespoons neutral oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (optional)
2 cups beef broth
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups steamed white rice
4 large eggs, fried, sunny side up or over easy
2 chopped scallions, for garnish

In a large bowl, combine the beef, chopped onion, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Form into four patties about 1/2-inch thick. Place the patties on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large 12-inch skillet over medium. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the sliced onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until almost translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring often, until soft and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and heat over medium. When the oil is hot, swirl the pan around to evenly coat it, then gently place the patties in the pan, spacing them out evenly. Cook until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Using a spatula, transfer patties to a clean plate to rest.

Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to the pan and heat over medium until hot. Add the mushrooms (if using) and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, then add the caramelized onions, beef broth, soy sauce and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low.

Place the cornstarch in a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the broth from the skillet and whisk until smooth. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the skillet and simmer until the sauce has thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Place 1 cup steamed rice on each plate and top each serving with one patty, then the gravy, a fried egg and chopped scallions.

Hawaiian Guava Cake

2 1/2 cups/320 grams cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1 1/4 cups/250 grams granulated sugar
6 large egg whites
1/4 cup/60 milliliters neutral oil, like canola or vegetable oil
1 cup/240 milliliters whole milk
1 cup/240 milliliters guava concentrate or reduced guava juice (see Tip)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 drops of red food coloring (optional)

1 cup/240 milliliters heavy whipping cream
8 ounces/230 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
3 drops of red food coloring (optional)
1/2 cup/120 milliliters guava concentrate or reduced guava juice (see Tip)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a parchment sling, leaving some over hang on the long sides.

Make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk the cake flour, baking powder and kosher salt until combined. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium until well combined, about 3 minutes. Add the egg whites, in three additions, beating about 1 minute after each. Reduce speed to low, add the oil and mix until combined, about 1 more minute.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, guava concentrate, vanilla and food coloring (if using). On low speed, alternate between adding the wet and dry ingredients to the bowl of the stand mixer, mixing well after each addition.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting: In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually increase the speed to high and whip until it’s light and fluffy with stiff peaks, another 2 to 3 minutes. (Don’t overwhip!) Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl.

Replace the bowl on the stand mixer and fit the machine with the paddle attachment (there’s no need to clean the bowl). Place the cream cheese in the bowl and mix on medium until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar and kosher salt and increase the speed to high. Beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Lower the speed to medium and add the food coloring (if using). Add the guava concentrate in four additions, mixing well after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after the second and the final additions.

Increase the speed to high and beat until smooth and well incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from stand and, using the spatula, gently fold in the whipped cream in three additions, incorporating completely after each addition.
Spread the frosting on the cooled cake, using an offset spatula to smooth it over the edges. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Cut into 24 pieces and serve immediately.

Tip
If using guava juice, reduce it: Boil two liters of juice over high heat until it’s reduced by half, about 40 minutes. Let cool completely before using. Avoid juices that contain any added sugar so the cake does not become overly sweet. Ms. Kysar likes Ceres brand guava juice.

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

CAKE:
1 3/4 cups/225 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 cup/45 grams unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups/300 grams granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup/240 milliliters whole milk
1/2 cup/120 milliliters grapeseed oil or any mild-flavored oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup/240 milliliters boiling water

FOR THE TRES LECHES:
1 (12-ounce) can/355 milliliters evaporated milk
1 (14-ounce) can/395 milliliters sweetened condensed milk (3 tablespoons reserved for the whipped cream)
1 cup/240 milliliters heavy cream
Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

FOR THE CONDENSED MILK WHIPPED CREAM:
1 cup/240 milliliters heavy cream, chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Chocolate shavings (optional)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom only of a 9-by-13-inch cake pan (preferably metal), leaving a 1/4-inch border that remains ungreased. Do not butter the sides of the pan.
Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large bowl. Add the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt and sift. Add the sugar and whisk to combine.
In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla until combined. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until there are no lumps and the batter is smooth. Carefully pour in the boiling water and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed, about 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the tres leches: In a large bowl, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk (setting 3 tablespoons aside for the whipped cream), heavy cream and vanilla bean seeds or extract (if using) and whisk to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not using immediately.

Remove the cake from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife around the cake’s edges. Cool completely.

While the cake is still in the pan, use a skewer or a fork to poke small holes through the cake to the bottom, about an inch apart. Slowly spoon the tres leches over the top of the cake, giving it time to soak in. Once the liquid is absorbed, repeat until all the tres leches is used. (Toward the end, the tres leches will pool at the edges, but don’t worry; it will be absorbed while in the fridge.) Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 to 6 hours, preferably overnight.

When ready to serve, make the whipped cream: Add the reserved condensed milk along with the cream, vanilla and cinnamon (if using) to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium high until the cream has doubled in volume, forms soft peaks and is light and fluffy. Spread the cake with the cream and sprinkle the chocolate shavings on top. Serve from the pan.

Baked Lemon French Toast

6-10 slices day-old bread (challah, miche, white etc.)
6 large eggs lightly beaten
2 cups half & half (10%) cream
1 cup milk (whole (3%) milk, if possible)
1 Tbsp vanilla
Zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 cup brown sugar
To serve:
Fresh blueberries, blackberries or raspberries, for topping
Icing/confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Mint leaves for garnish
Maple syrup for drizzling

Grease your baking dish with butter. Lay your bread slices in the dish in a single layer, slightly over-lapping, but ensuring that the layer is as flat to the bottom of the pan as possible.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, half & half, milk, vanilla, lemon zest and brown sugar. *Note: You may not need to use all of the soaking liquid. A lot will depend on the thickness and type of bread you are using.

Pour mixture over bread slices only until the bread is almost all covered, with only the top edges of the bread slices exposed. Use a fork to gently move the slices so that the soaking liquid seeps between the slices, as well.

Allow to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, pressing down with a fork and adding a bit more of the soaking liquid if necessary, once some has been absorbed by the bread before putting in the oven.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until set and lightly golden. *If necessary, loosely cover with aluminum foil for the last part of baking if top seems golden enough before the bake is set.

Remove from oven and allow to stand 5 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and scatter fresh fruit over top. Serve with maple syrup, for drizzling.

Stir-Fried Beef and Herbs

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon white sugar
2 teaspoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 pound 80 to 85 percent lean ground beef (not extra lean)
3 Fresno or jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups lightly packed fresh mint, roughly chopped
3/4 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, ginger, cornstarch and sugar. Set aside. In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium, heat the oil until shimmering.

Add the beef and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat into small pieces, until mostly browned but some pink still remains, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the chilies and soy sauce mixture, then cook, stirring, until no pink remains and the meat is evenly coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the mint and cilantro.

Baked Cheesy Grits

8 cups water
2 cups coarse, stone-ground white grits (not instant) (12 ounces), rinsed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
3 large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. In a large, heavy pot, bring the water to a boil. Sprinkle the grits into the water, stirring constantly, and return to a boil. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the grits are just tender, about 30 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the grits are very thick and tender, about 10 minutes longer. Off the heat, stir in the butter and cheese, then stir in the eggs.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for 1 hour, until bubbling and the top is golden. Let the grits casserole cool for 20 minutes before serving.

The baked casserole can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat before serving.

Japanese Soufflé Pancakes

4 egg whites and 2 egg yolks from 4 large eggs, separated and chilled
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons cake flour
1/4 cup milk, chilled
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Unsalted butter, for greasing and serving
Maple syrup, for serving
Confectioners’ sugar, whipped cream and fresh berries, for serving (optional)

Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer or a medium bowl; set aside. Place egg yolks in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, the vanilla and baking powder to egg yolks and whisk until blended. Add flour and milk; whisk until fully combined.

Add lemon juice and salt to egg whites. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer, whip mixture on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Continue to whip over medium while gradually sprinkling with remaining 5 tablespoons granulated sugar. Turn speed to high and whip until stiff, glossy peaks form and mixture doubles in size, about 1 minute. Take care not to overbeat meringue.

Heat a lidded nonstick skillet over the lowest heat setting and set the lid aside.

Using a rubber spatula, scoop about 1/3 of meringue into egg yolk mixture and gently fold almost combined. Repeat with half the remaining meringue until almost combined, then fold in the remaining meringue just until no streaks remain.

Carefully grease the warm skillet and the inside of four 3-inch-wide pastry rings (they should be at least 1 1/2 inches tall) using the butter. Check the heat of the pan by sprinkling a bit of water in it: Droplets should steam off the surface, but not dance or sputter. Place the greased pastry rings in the warm pan and ladle a scant 1/2 cup batter into each ring. Place lid on top of skillet and cook pancakes on very low heat until they start to rise and a few small bubbles start to form on top, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove lid, carefully slide a flat spatula underneath each pancake and position another spatula on top, then gently flip pancakes in their rings. Immediately replace lid and cook until pancakes are cooked through and spring back to the touch, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer cooked pancakes to a platter, grease the skillet and pastry rings and repeat to make 4 additional pancakes.

Top pancakes with a pat of butter and drizzle with maple syrup; serve immediately. Serve with any combination of confectioners’ sugar, whipped cream and berries, if desired.