Saturday, March 19, 2011

Banh Mi Adventure...a Porkalicious Journey into Porktastic Porkocity

This was a monster task for us. Some might say this recipe is completely frightening. Just look at all the ingredients needed!

The Banh mi sandwich resulted from the French colonization of Vietnam. Asian cured and seasoned pork with pickled vegetables on a French baguette (made partly of rice flour to be authentic) with a smear of French pate, kewpie mayo, and Sriracha sauce. Most of these ingredients originated on the other side of the world. When we lived in New York City, we could leave our apartment for a 15 minute walk and return with all of these ingredients and assemble. French baguette? Tons of bakeries just south of Union Square, take your pick. Asian sauces and seasonings? You don’t even need to go to Chinatown. Supermarkets and corner bodegas have that stuff. Pâté? Sold in a vacuum sealed package at any deli counter.
We now live in rural Pennsylvania. You want fresh bread? You’re baking it! The 1 hour drive to Costco will get you the next best thing, at the cost of a few dollars and a quarter tank of gas. Kewpie mayo? or make it. Pâté? There’s scrapple out here but no French pâté. We’re making that too. Pickled vegetables? Start pickling! The mutant cucumbers floating around in the jar of high fructose corn syrup in your grocer’s condiments aisle won’t work here.
For sandwiches on Saturday, you need to start Thursday night after work (using our recipes). That’s when the pickles start pickling, the sponge starter for the bread is made, and the pork butt starts marinating. Friday night, you add flour to the sponge to make the bread dough. Rotate the pork butt that’s marinating/curing in the fridge, and make the pâté and kewpie mayo. Saturday morning, bake the bread and then toss in the pork and turn the oven down to 300F.  You should be ready to assemble your sandwich 4-6 hours later.

Ingredients for Pork:
5lb. bone-in pork butt
2 heaping tbsp. garlic, chopped
2 heaping tbsp. fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp. red chili flakes
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
a big squirt of Sriracha sauce
1/2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
3 tbsp. canola oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. mirin
1 heaping tsp. kosher salt
2 scallions, chopped

Mix everything together in a bowl and spread onto meat. Be sure to massage into every crevice and flap of pork flesh. Place into fridge for 36 hours. Keep it covered. Rotate halfway through. Discard excess marinade before roasting.
Roast in an oven for 6 hours at 300F covered in a Dutch oven. Baste every 2 hours. The last hour of cooking should be uncovered. When finished, the meat should fall apart and the bone should easily be removed with little resistance.

Ingredients for Asian Vinegar Pickles:
(Momofuku's recipe)
1 cup water, piping hot from the tap
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
2 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
6 tbsp. granulated sugar
carrots cucumbers, daikon, cut into matchsticks (our produce guy didn't know what a daikon was, so we used regular radishes cut into 1/4" rounds)
big pinch of whole peppercorns

Mix everything together. Put into a mason jar. Put into fridge. The pickles will be ready to eat in about 6 hours and will keep for 4 days.

*Recipe for Pâté
*Recipe for bread (you could really use any kind of CRUSTY hoagie not use a hot dog bun)

Ingredients for Kewpie Mayo:
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 egg yolks
around 1/2 cup canola oil

Whisk together the first 4 ingredients. While whisking, add the oil one drop at a time until mayo forms. You can also do this in a blender or food processor like they do on TV.

How to Assemble Banh Mi:

1) Spread pâté onto one side of the bread.

2) Spread mayo onto other side of the bread.

3) Add in fresh cilantro.

4) Place shredded pork on sandwich.

5) Top it off with pickled veg.

6) Cut in half and insert into mouth.

This was a lot of work, but WELL WORTH IT! ***Note to Kelleny, Chris says this was better than Saigon's (and I gotta say it was definitely up there).

Spanish Tortilla

This is a perfect item for breakfast, brunch, served with a salad for lunch, a first course for dinner, or cut up into bite sized pieces for an appetizer at a cocktail party. There are tons of recipes for a Spanish Tortilla, here is our favorite way to make it---

4 eggs, scrambled
1-2 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced as thinly as possible
1 large Spanish onion, sliced
1/2 cup of dried chorizo, diced
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil, as needed
smoked Spanish paprika

Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a 10" pan over medium heat. Toss the potatoes into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft. Do not brown them. If they start to brown, your flame is too hot! Once they are soft, take them out of the pan and set them into a large bowl. Next drop the onions into the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Again, cook until not brown. Once they are soft, toss the chorizo in and cook until the onions turn red. Dump the contents of the pan into the bowl with the potatoes. Toss half of your parsley into the bowl along with the scrambled eggs. Mix everything together. Put everything into an 8" nonstick pan that has been greased with olive oil. Put the pan into a 400F oven for 10-15 minutes depending how cooked you like your eggs. Once the omelet is cooked you will be able to slide a rubber spatula under the corners to loosen it. Now put a plate over the pan, and flippity-flop. Your omelet should release. If any sticks, it's okay...the Michelin Star committee isn't at your door. Top with a sprinkle of the smoked paprika and the rest of the parsley. Slice it up like a pizza and eat up!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Clams: Sort of Spanish Style

So many people think of clams as slimey blobs of flesh with a consistency of bubble gum. All I can say is that can't be further from the truth. You probably haven't had them made properly. And those baked clams...who thought those were good??? Soggy breadcrumbs, and you can't even tell that there are clams inside. We're about to show you a recipe that will make you appreciate clams so much more than you ever have. Make this appetizer at your next dinner party and you will be the talk of the town. For simplicity's sake the below recipe is for 8 Topneck clams...but you can really make as much filling as you want and use as many clams as you would like. You don't even have to use Topneck, but we would suggest not to use anything larger than that.

8 Topneck clams
1/2 cup of chorizo, diced tiny
1/2 cup of onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
big handful of parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
lemons on hand
extra virgin olive oil

Put the closed clams on a roasting pan and put them into a 425F oven until they start to open. It will take around 15 minutes. In the meantime, coat the bottom of a pan with extra virgin olive oil and place over medium high heat. Saute the onions until translucent. Next, add in the chorizo and stir until the onions turn red. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Shut off the heat on the stovetop. Add in the parsley and the juice of half a lemon. Add in the salt and pepper to taste. The stuffing is complete. Take the open clams out of the oven. Work a knife into the open clam and cut the muscle that is on either side of the hinge. The clams should now open easily. Twist off and discard the less meaty side of the shell. Cut around the base of the meat to free it from the shell it is attached to. Give a squeeze of lemon directly onto the cooked clam. Put a spoonful of filling over the clam meat. Insert in mouth!!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Salmon Tartare

Raw fish...yum! Get the fish from a fish monger. The stuff in the super market case wrapped in plastic won't cut it. Ask for sushi grade salmon. Be sure to let the fish monger know you plan to eat this raw. If the color runs away from his face and he gets a shocked look, he doesn't have what you are looking for. As a backup plan, the vacuum packed freezer stuff is usually okay. There really is no need to freak out. The salt and lemon pretty much cures the fish. No bacteria can possibly survive in that amount of acid.

1/4 lb. of raw salmon, diced as small as possible
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tbsp. of capers, chopped
big drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. of celery seed
salt and pepper to taste
6 leaves of fresh basil, chopped

Combine above ingredients. Try to keep it cold. Don't keep it out too'll kill your friends. Enjoy! We suggest eating it with some freshly made ciabatta bread.

Fresh Mozzarella: Sunday Morning Science Experiment

This is not our recipe. Mozzarella has been around for at least 1000 years (we think?!?!). The recipe is from the now defunct Gourmet Magazine. Chris had a fun time making this...but it is TOTALLY NOT WORTH IT! It takes about 6 hours, and most of it is working time...and yields about 1 lb. of cheese at the cost of a gallon of milk. Here is the recipe and here are the pictures.

*If you have trouble finding citric acid, is a great resource. Junket (vegetable rennet) can be found in a supermarket near where they sell the jell-O.

curds and whey have separated

draining the curds

super "high tech" cheese making apparatus

forming the mozzarella balls

simple salad with arugula and tomatoes


What's Ciabatta With You?

Baking bread is hard...blah, blah, blah. You have to measure everything...blah, blah, blah. Kneading it is exhausting...blah, blah, blah. None of this is true! There are many recipes on this site, but honestly, Chris has never measured anything in his life! The only thing you need to make these loaves is a pizza stone and patience. Here is his ciabatta "recipe".

King Arthur bread flour
instant yeast (Chris uses Hodgson Mills, Red Star, or Dr. Oetker)...don't use Fleischman's, it sucks.
cornmeal for dusting

To make bread for Saturday morning start Thursday night. This process takes 2 days. On Thursday night put 2 cups of flour, a giant pinch of salt, and 1/4 tsp. of yeast into a bowl. Mix together. Start adding room temperature water a little at a time (straight from the faucet). Stir constantly while doing this. You want the consistency of very thick pancake batter. You do not want a ball of dough...and you do not want soup! If you get either of these, add more flour or more water to adjust. Once you have your "thick glop" cover the bowl with plastic wrap tightly and leave it in a draft-free (warm) spot in your kitchen. Congratulations, you have just made "the sponge". Go to bed. Friday morning before you go to work check on your monster. It should have doubled in size and thousands of small bubbles should have formed on the surface. If you sneak a sniff it will smell like a stale beer. Keep it wrapped up...but now, put the whole bowl in the fridge. Go to work. When you come home take the bowl out of the fridge and leave it alone for a few hours to bring it back to room temperature. Now add 2 more cups of flour to "the sponge", another huge pinch of salt, and about 1/2 tsp. of yeast. You do not have to knead it, but get in there with your hands and make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated. This time you want the dough to form a slimey, wet ball. Add more water if you need it. If you are still at a batter consistency add more flour. Wrap the bowl back up and leave it alone at room temperature. Go to bed. Saturday morning, with a wet spatula gently work the dough onto a clean countertop. Do not flour your don't want unfermented flour getting into the dough at this point. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form them into loaves as long as your pizza stone. Place the loaves on a piece of parchment paper that has been dusted with cornmeal. Dust the top of the loaves with cornmeal and flour (we're not mixing the flour in...just dusting, so it is okay). Put the parchment paper on either a pizza peel or upside down tray...something that will deliver it into the oven (Chris uses a cookie sheet). Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel. Let them sit for 2 hours before putting into the oven.

Setting up the oven:
Preheat the oven to 500F. On the very bottom rack place a cast iron pan or empty roasting pan. In the middle rack in the oven place your pizza stone. Do this one hour before you put your loaves into the oven. Here is the order of attack: loaves onto the pizza stone (parchment paper and all...not the plastic wrap or kitchen towels!). Pour 2 cups of boiling water into the cast iron pan. Slam the oven door closed. Count 30 seconds. Get a spray bottle and spray a bunch of mist into the oven. Wait another 30 seconds, and repeat. Wait another 30 seconds, and repeat again. Come back in 20 minutes. The bread will probably be baked...but leave in the oven as long as you want to achieve the desired color. Take a look at this video if you are completely confused.

Some people eat their bread with cheese. Some do butter. Chris does anchovies straight out of a can.

Impress Your Friends in Ten Seconds...

Just as the title says, this should take you no longer than 10 seconds...and the payoff is fantastic. If you live near a deep rooted Italian community you should have access to fresh ricotta. If not, here is a recipe, knock yourself out.

1 vine ripened tomato, sliced into three pieces
a heaping ice cream scoop of finest ricotta
3 leaves of basil, cut into thin strips
a drizzle of really good extra virgin olive oil

Assemble the picture above...and charge $8 as an appetizer at a restaurant.

Banana Cake Bites

The other day I was in the mood for something sweet. I didn't have enough ingredients in my pantry to follow a recipe from any of my recipe I thought I'd try to come up with something on my own. I know, I know...baking is a science. A little too much or too little of something and your dessert will flop. I was in an adventurous mood and thought I'd just try to create something and see what happens. Well, I guess I just got rather lucky that day...because my banana cake bites came out great! My husband and I have been eating them up like crazy (so good!). These bites have a consistency kind of between cake and a banana bread.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup milk (I used skim because it was all I had)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. honey
1 ripe banana, diced
4 pats of unsalted butter, at room temperature

To start out I took two of these Nordic Ware Mini Bundt Tea Cake-Candy Mold pans and sprayed them with some nonstick cooking spray. Heat your oven to 350F. Next you will combine your dry ingredients in a mixer (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon). Add in the eggs and milk. Next you will add in the 4 pats of butter. If you forgot to let them get to room temperature (which I swear I always forget to do) warm the butter in your hands. After that is mixed, add in vanilla extract, honey, and banana. Place the mixture into the molds, not quite to the top because it will rise a little. Bake for 20-25 minutes.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Chicken Paella

Simply put paella is a Spanish dish of rice, some kind of meat, and vegetables cooked together in a pan which is called a paella. There are an infinite amount of recipes for paella...and no, you don't need a paella pan to make it. Here is our quick recipe from our Saturday night dinner.

8 chicken thighs, skinless, bone in
1 tomato, diced
1 Spanish onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
1/2 a green bell pepper, diced
3 carrots, thinly sliced
a dozen thin asparagus spears, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup of chorizo, diced
3/4 of a cup of calasparra rice (this is a specialty item...if you can't find it, any type of risotto rice like arborio is fine)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
several sprigs of fresh thyme
lemon, cut into wedges
1 cup of chicken stock
a pinch of saffron
handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Marinate the chicken with olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. Toss chicken with your hands to make sure it is all covered evenly. Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a 12" cast iron skillet over high heat. Brown the chicken on both sides, working in batches. Once a piece is brown on both sides, take it out of the skillet and set aside. Once you are done with the chicken start cooking the onions with the garlic in the empty pan. Cook until they are not let them get too dark! Once they are translucent, add in the chorizo and stir around until the onions turn red. Next, toss in the rest of the vegetables. Cook the veggies until they start to color and soften. In the meantime, heat the chicken stock until it starts to simmer. Once simmering, shut off the heat and add in the pinch of saffron. When your vegetables are done cooking, toss the rice into the pan along with the thyme and stir around until it is evenly coated with the vegetable juices. Now nestle the chicken into the rice and vegetables and pour the chicken stock over the entire pan. When the chicken stock starts to simmer again shut the heat off and cover the pan with tin foil or a large cookie sheet. Put the covered pan into a 400F oven. Check on it every 15 minutes. Add some more stock out of a box if it gets too dry, but DO NOT make it soupy! This cooking process will take somewhere from 30-45 minutes. When it is done the rice should be cooked al dente. When you are done, top with parsley and a dash more of paprika if you'd like. Serve with lemon wedges.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Our Leg of Lamb

This was a treat. Chris found a 5 pound leg of lamb at the supermarket for $6...reduced from $46! Of course it was one day away from it's sell by he brought it home and cooked it up immediately (no lamb tartare here). No time for much fuss. We slapped together whatever we could scrounge up around our kitchen and fridge to make it taste good. And taste good it did. Scratch that...taste AMAZING! You don't have to follow this recipe exactly...but this is what we used. Feel free to dump whatever vegetables you have sitting around into the roasting pan.

leg of lamb (bone in)
fresh thyme and rosemary
bunch of carrots, chopped into one inch pieces
1/2 red onion, sliced
yellow onions, quartered, enough to fill the roasting pan
yukon gold potatoes, quartered, as many as you want
6 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil (we really don't measure...anything)
salt and pepper to taste
kitchen string

Start by butterflying the lamb leg. There will be one side of the leg that is really meaty (the calf muscle), and one side that is just bone (the shin bone). Here is how we butterfly: slice down the middle of the meaty side until you hit the back of the shin bone. Open it up like a book.
Now make a garlic paste. Mince up the 6 cloves of garlic. Top the pile of minced garlic with some kosher salt and press it together with the side of your knife. Add some black pepper and olive oil and a paste will start to form. Rub half of this paste on the inside of the butterflied leg of lamb. Now add the sliced red onion to the inside. Next, add some herbs to the inside. Leave the stems out...just use chopped up leaves. Now we will tie the leg of lamb closed. I'm sure in cooking school they teach you how to tie it nice and neatly...but we don't care about that. Just tie it tightly and try to keep the onions inside. Coat the outside of the leg of lamb with olive oil. Now liberally salt and pepper the outside. Add as much herbs as you want and the rest of the garlic paste to the outside as well.
Toss the veggies into the roasting pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs if you'd like. Place the leg of lamb on top of the vegetables. Pop the entire mess into a 450F oven and immediately turn down the temperature down to 375F. The hot temperature will cause the outside to darken and caramelize and turning it down will let it cook thoroughly without drying out. Come back in one hour and a half to take it out of the oven. Put the leg of lamb on your serving dish and tent it with tin foil. Do not touch! Leave it alone! Resist the temptation! You will be rewarded with a juicy leg of lamb. After 15 minutes of letting it rest cut away the string and slice away. Note: caramelized onions in lamb grease are SUPER YUMMY!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

NYC Grub

Last weekend we took a short overnight trip to New York City. It's been 6 months since we moved from there...and we have been missing the city's food ever since we left. We stopped by a few of our favorite spots, as well as some new places we have never checked out before.

In a city like NYC the restaurant scene can be rather overwhelming. We highly suggest that the next time you are in town that you check out our favorite old (and new) places to grab some grub!

Our first stop on our food adventure is downtown for banh mi sandwiches. Never heard of banh mi? Well, don't feel bad. It is rather new to us as well. We tried it for the first time last winter when my friend was visiting us. She had them before and told us about the best place in the city for them. All I have to say is OH MY GOD! Half of the items in it I'm not even sure what they are...but I don't care. It is so amazingly yummy! They actually have a sign inside stating everything that is inside it. The sandwiches are what many call Vietnamese hoagies. They are filled with veggies & pork items...and are on delicious, crunchy bread. The bread really does make the sandwich. We don't fool around...we get the #1 (the house special...and we like it SPICY!). The most insane thing is that 2 huge foot long hoagies only cost $8.50! You can't beat that!

banh mi sandwiches from Saigon
Located at: Broome Street near Mott.
 (note: I took these sandwich photos over the summer...forgot to snap some when we were there last weekend)

The banh mi doesn't stand a chance against Chris's mouth.

Stop two on our food tour was to Eataly. We have been reading about this Mario Batali marketplace/restaruant for some time now. We actually ended up moving just before they opened so this was our first time there.

The building was absolutely beautiful. The food looked fantastic. Everything was in their own sections (meat and cheese, bread, pizza, fish, dessert, pasta...). What we thought was crazy was the fact that we were there at 3pm on a Friday afternoon and it was SO JAM PACKED! People were waiting in line to get into all of the restaurants. I thought it was fun to see...but 1) we were still full from our banh mi sandwiches, and 2) we weren't in the mood to stand in line. But if you are in town, you really should stop on by just to check it out!

Eataly is located at 200 5th Avenue (at 23rd Street...across the street from Madison Square Park)

Our third must stop on our food tour was a new spot for us. We were meeting up with a good friend and she suggested this Thai bar/restaurant that was right near our hotel and her work called: Room Service. When we were there I ordered the best drink of my life. life!

I ordered a (2) key lime pie martini. It was SO GOOD that Chris had to order one as well. I have always been a huge fan of this drink...but what made this one stand apart from others was the fact that they topped it with PIE CRUMBS! DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm sure that the next time we go to NYC we'll be going there for dinner. We would have stayed for a meal, but we already had dinner plans.
Room Service is located at 690 9th Avenue (by 47th Street)

Our fourth stop (our dinner stop where we met another good friend) was a restaurant near our old apartment in the East Village called: Sushi Lounge. We have been craving sushi since we moved. Besides the couple rolls I made here at home, we haven't eated sushi in 6 months...which is insane! Yeah we have sushi restaurants near our new apartment...but they are so pricey! When we ate at Sushi Lounge we ordered 10 rolls to share, edamame, and 2 pitchers of beer for only $80. $80 to stuff three people! Crazy!

Located at 132 St. Mark's Place (at the corner of Avenue A)

Our last stop for the evening was another old favorite---Pommes Frites. This place is soooooo delicious! Such a great place for a late night snack. What is so great about these french fries is that there is a HUGE LIST of dipping sauces to choose from. Chris decided on peppercorn mayo for us to dip in...and boy was that the right decision! Delicious!!!

One word of warning: all they serve is french fries...and when they sell out, they sell out. I went there one night (it wasn't even late) and they were ALL SOLD OUT!

Located at 123 2nd Ave. in the East Village.

We hope you enjoyed out food tour of NYC...and really hope that you check out these places the next time you are in town!!!