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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Superbowl Party

So I am not a football fan.  It's not that I dislike it.  I'm more just... indifferent to it.  That said, we had a Superbowl party again this year.  Superbowl parties are fun because they represent an excuse to make three or four small plates - something that is generally impractical, even on weekends.  This particular Superbowl party was special, though.  Even if the Giants missed the chance to beat the Patriots again, it was me versus the pork belly slider in the kitchen.  Last year, I braised the pork belly for way too long.  All the fat rendered off, leaving a handful of scorched, adamantine splinters of flesh.  This was my year of redemption, and I won!
The strategy turned out to be incredibly simple: pork belly is supposed to be fat.  When you let the pork belly be pork belly it melts into a delectable bite amid its bed of coleslaw and brioche, and this recipe from Food Republic comes into its own.  I made a few modifications to account for ingredients I didn't have.  For example, I used white sesame seeds only , instead of white and black sesame seeds.  Since I only took things away I suggest making it to original recipe, because it can only be better than what was already a juicy burst of sweet and sour porcine deliciousness.

Although the sliders were the clear MVP, a couple of other plates stood out as well.  Along with the sliders, I also made chicken tacos and mini-reubens.

Chicken Tacos
1 - 1.5 lbs chicken thighs, skin on
8 corn tortillas (unless people like double tortillas)
8 - 10 leaves butterhead lettuce, shredded
2 tomatoes, diced
6 - 8 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1 lime, sliced
Cotija cheese


1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
Juice of 2 limes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp salt

This recipe is simple but it packed a lot of flavor.  The key to the flavor is a very long marinade.  In this case I let it go more than 24 hours.  When I was ready to prepare the legs, I dried them off with paper towels and then browned them on all sides in some safflower oil.  I preserved the marinade, separating the solids from the liquid.  When the thighs were thoroughly browned, I removed them and then sauteed the onion and garlic from the marinade.  When the onions were translucent, I added the marinade liquid and the thighs.
I then braised them for about 40 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.  When the chicken reached temperature I removed the thighs and let them cool.  When they were cooled but still warm I shredded the meat with a pair of forks.  About an hour before serving I seeded the tomatoes, mixed them together with the cilantro, and seasoned with a little salt.  To serve, I heated the tortillas in a skillet, then added the chicken, the tomato mixture, and shredded lettuce, and garnished with a little crumbled cotija cheese.

I love reubens.  They are probably one of my top five--maybe even top three--favorite foods.  Perhaps the best reuben I have ever had was from Friedman's Lunch in Chelsea Market.  I could wax poetic about that particular melty bundle of buttery joy, but I'll save that for another post.  Needless to say, my love for the perfect reuben meant my expectations were set impossibly high.

Friedman's makes theirs with pastrami, which according to Wikipedia should technically be called a "Rachel," since a reuben is made with corned beef.  I like both, so for this attempt I used corned beef.

3/4 lb. thin sliced corned beef
1/4 lb. sliced swiss cheese
2 cups sauerkraut, drained
1/2 loaf of rye bread
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp parsley, minced
1 tsp horseradish (from a jar)
1 Tbsp sriracha

No mysteries here.  If you get good ingredients the sandwich will be good.  All you have to do is make sure that everything is sufficiently warmed to dissolve into a rich, juicy rhapsody on the tongue.  I combined the mayo, parsley, horseradish and sriracha to make the dressing.  Then I used two skillets, one to warm the corned beef and melt the cheese, and one to grill the bread.  For each sandwich I used about an ounce of corned beef and a half-ounce of cheese.  I layered the corned beef by folding each piece on itself in the skillet, then topped with the cheese.  For the bread I liberally buttered one side each of two slices, and grilled in the skillet until crispy and golden-brown.  I'm sure you can figure out the rest from there - hey, it's a sandwich!  While it didn't compare to Friedman's, it was good enough to proudly wear the moniker "reuben."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Original French Onion Soup

The title may be a bit of an oxymoron, but it refers to the fact that I completely winged this dish.  It turned out to be a thoroughly plausible rendition.  I used the beef fat and braising vegetables from the beef ribs I made the other night.

3 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon beef fat
Vegetables from braised beef ribs
1 quart beef stock
8 ounces pumpkin ale
Red wine vinegar

Peel and cut the onions in to strips.  Melt the beef fat and butter in a pot large enough to hold at least a quart.  Saute the onions over medium heat until they are thoroughly caramelized.  They will turn brown but be careful not to let the butter burn.  Add the stock and beer and bring to a boil.  Wrap the vegetables in cheesecloth and tie up with kitchen string.  Add to the pot.  Reduce heat and simmer the soup for at 40 minutes.  Season with salt and vinegar to taste.  To serve, ladle into bowls and cover with crisped baguette slices and grated gruyere cheese.

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Maple-Ginger Glaze

This weekend we served this delicious variation on a recipe from Molly Stevens' All About Braising.

6 English-style beef short ribs
2 medium yellow onions
1 large carrot
4 cloves garlic
1 3-inch piece of ginger root
1 bottle pumpkin ale
2 cups beef stock
6 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp red pepper flakes

Trim any excess fat off the beef ribs.  Chop the onions, carrot, garlic and 2/3 of the ginger into small pieces.  Add them to the beer.  Mix in the pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.  Pour the mixture over the ribs and marinate for a minimum of 12 hours.  Turn the ribs at regular intervals in order to ensure they marinate evenly.

When the marinade is done, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Dry the ribs with paper towels and season them liberally all over with salt and pepper.  Strain out the onions, carrot, garlic and ginger from the marinade and set aside.  Heat the oil in the braising pot and brown the ribs on all sides.  Remove the ribs and pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat and oil.  Saute the carrot, onion, garlic, and ginger until the onions are translucent.  Pour in the marinade liquid and de-glaze the pot.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Add the ribs and situate them so that they are partially submerged.  Cover the pot and place it in the oven to braise for 2 1/2 hours or until the ribs are fork-tender.  Turn the ribs every 45 minutes to ensure even cooking.  When the braise is complete, remove the ribs and allow them to cool.  Skim the fat off the braising liquid and set aside.  Strain the braising liquid to remove the solids.  Reduce the braising liquid to about a cup, tasting it to ensure that it does not become too salty.

At least an hour before serving, cut the remaining ginger into small pieces and add to the remaining maple syrup in a small saucepan.  Bring the maple syrup to a boil and then remove from the heat.  Let the ginger steep until ready to serve.

Before serving, strain the ginger out of the maple syrup and brush onto the ribs.  Place the ribs in the broiler for 5 - 10 minutes, or until they begin to sizzle.  Be sure not to let them scorch.  Reheat the braising liquid reduction for a few minutes on the stove.  Serve the ribs over mashed potatoes, pouring the sauce around them so as not to wash off the glaze.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bok Choy and Fried Tofu

I was just banging out dinner one night this week and it turned out to be absolutely delicious.  Unfortunately my expectations were so low I never snapped a picture.  Trust me when I say it looked lovely...

  • 2 packages extra firm tofu, drained and pressed, and cut into small cubes
  • 1 large head bok choy, chopped
  • 4 bunches scallions chopped in ~ 1 in. pieces
  • 3 Tbsp minced ginger
  • 3 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbsp garlic chili sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Pinch of shredded kaffir lime
  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil plus 1/3 cup vegetable oil for frying

Fry the tofu in the oil mixture until all pieces are slightly shrunken and golden brown all over (about 10 min).  Pour the hot oil through a sieve into a pot or pyrex and let the tofu drain thoroughly.  Pour a few tablespoons of the oil back into the wok and add the garlic, ginger and bok choy.  Saute until the bok choy leaves shrink.  Add the tofu, liquid ingredients plus the sugar and kaffir lime.  After thorough mixing sprinkle the scallions over the top and let them steam while the dish simmers for about 8-10 min.  Serve over brown rice.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Spicy Beef Broth Soup with Edamame and Rice Noodles

Just improvised this for my afternoon lunch, and it turned out to be so delicious I just had to share!  This recipe came about because I was trying to think of a use for the 1/4 cup of braising liquid plus beef tallow I had left over from a recent pot roast.  The simplicity of the dish belies the rich flavor it held.  I suspect that its depth of flavor derives from the use of the tallow and braising liquid.  However, since there were no particularly discernible flavors from the original roast, I suspect that any sort of leftover fat and/or enriched liquid will work.

  • 2 1/2 oz. rice noodles
  • 1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame
  • Half a medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp tallow
  • 1/4 cup beef braising liquid
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tsp beef bouillon paste
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp chili sauce
  • 1 tsp brown rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp rice wine
Sauté the onion in the tallow.  When the onion is translucent, add the braising liquid and water and bring to a boil.  Dissolve the bouillon paste in the boiling liquid.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the oyster sauce, chili sauce, rice vinegar and rice wine.  Taste the mixture to make sure it is properly balanced.  It's ok if it's on the salty side, because the edamame and rice noodles will cut the saltiness.  Add the frozen edamame and let the liquid return to a simmer.  Add the rice noodles and continue simmering until they just cooked through.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Novel Chicken

We came up with a novel, simple way to prepare some delicious chicken legs tonight.  The key to making this spontaneous recipe work seems to have been using the lemon slices to cover the chicken while it baked, then removing the slices and broiling the chicken to crisp the skin.  We served the chicken with beets in broth and perfect seasoned rice for a delicious dinner.

  • 2 whole chicken legs
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 Tbsp minced parsley
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp salt (for brine)
  • 1 tsp salt (for paste)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
30 to 60 minutes prior to baking, dissolve 3 Tbsp salt in about 6 cups of cold water.  Submerge the chicken legs in the brine and refrigerate while prepping the other ingredients.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the thyme, parsley, salt, pepper, and olive oil to form a thick paste.  After at least 30 minutes, remove the legs from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Trim any excess skin and/or fat.  Coat the legs thoroughly with the seasoning paste and place in a baking dish.  Cut the lemon into slices no more than 1/4 inch thick.  You need enough lemon slices to more or less cover the chicken legs.  After placing the slices on the legs, bake the chicken for about 50 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees.  Remove slices from the chicken and place the uncovered chicken in the broiler for about five minutes or until the skin is crisped.

Beets in Broth

For some delicious beets, here is a surefire and mindlessly simple recipe.  Peel and cut the beets into smallish pieces.  Peel and crush a few cloves of garlic.  Bring enough chicken or vegetable broth to cover the beets to a boil.  Add the beets and garlic and reduce to a simmer.  Continue cooking until the beets are tender.  Slice a ripe avocado and serve over the warm beets.