Archive for August, 2012

August 29, 2012

Pork Chops w/ Mustard Cream Sauce and Baked Peaches

This turned out VERY well. I especially like the sweet buttery peaches. The recipe was inspired by a pork chop special at Bouchon Bistro in Las Vegas. Serve over kale and some creamy farro or barley risotto. Or a bed of mashed sweet potatoes. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced my photos. But you know what pork chops look like (:

Edit 4/13/2014: made this dish again. Still awesome. Here’s a pic!

pork chop

INGREDIENTS: (for 2)

  • 2 ~1lb bone in center cut pork chops (2 inch thick)
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • high smoking point oil (ie: avocado oil)
  • 1 large shallot, sliced (1/4 medium onion will do in a pinch)
  • 1/3 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • ~1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (less than half a lemon)*
  • 1/4 cup half&half
  • 1 ripe peach, sliced and skinned
  • butter
  • brown sugar

*can substitute with 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar or other light vinegar

Tools of the Trade:

  • TONGS. makes your life easier. only so much a spatula can do.
  • Cooking thermometer probe. A must for cooking meat, esp for those that aren’t experienced enough to just eyeball it. (like me)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Brine chops:

  1. On the morning of (or 12 hrs prior), heat ~2 cups of water in a medium pot with 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 brown sugar, 1 clove of garlic halved. Heat and stir until salt/sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add 5 cups ice cubes.
  2. In a gallon/large ziplock bag, add chops and enough of the salt water to submerge. Place in shallow pan (in case bag leaks) and into the fridge for 12 hours (do not over brine!! it’ll be too salty to eat. Better to under-brine…If your’e going to do this the night before, I would halve the amount of salt to brine 24 hours.)

Brown chops:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F-350F and line a baking pan w/ aluminum foil.
  2. Pat chops very dry. This will give you that nice crust. Wet chops=steamy & soggy.
  3. Heat a heavy skillet (NO non-stick pans) over med-high heat. Add avocado/peanut oil (not olive oil or pure butter as that will burn the meat and the pan) and heat until shimmery hot.
  4. Add meat and space chops out so they don’t touch. <– important to avoid steaming the meat instead of browning it.
  5. Brown each side ~ 4 min, NOT flipping until meat slides easily off the pan with a gentle push. You should have a nice brown crust on each side. If you’re anal retentive like me, sear the sides of the meat too.
  6. Remove and bake in oven for 15+ min or until internal temp reaches 135F 

The Sauce:

  1. While chops are in the oven, drain off any excess fat and add shallots. Saute until soft.
  2. Deglaze pan: Add chicken broth and bring to a boil, scrapping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  3. Stir in mustard and lemon juice (or vinegar). Reduce heat to medium and let liquid reduce by half.
  4. Add cream. Bring to a boil and let sauce thicken ~3 min. Remove from heat and set aside. Spoon over chops when chops are done.
  5. Optional: if you’re cooking for friends and don’t care about their waist lines, melt a pat of butter in the sauce at the end to thicken and finish the sauce. Butter tastes good in everything.

Baked Peaches:

  1. Line a baking pan w/ aluminum foil. Rub a thin layer of butter on to prevent sticking.
  2. Place peach wedges on the pan, evenly spaced out. (NOTE: if using fresh peaches, place peach in a deep bowl and pour 2-3 cups of boiling water over it. let is sit for 1 minute, then drain and rinse. The skin will peel right off.)
  3. Top each wedge with a small sliver of butter then lightly sprinkle on brown sugar.
  4. Broil on high until peaches are soft. Time will vary depending on oven.
    Just take a piece out and taste test it. Warning: you may end up eating all the peaches while waiting for your chops. Just make extra…

Plate chops, spoon over sauce, and top with peaches. ENJOY.

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August 24, 2012

Kung Pao Chicken w/ Cashews

Here is my easy/no fuss version of Kung Pao Chicken. I always though Kung Pao Chicken was just another one of those fake Chinese food dishes you get at those ubiquitous Asian fast food joints with the fat and fluffy ursine mascot. I believed this for most of my life, until the day I actually ORdered this dish from [insert panda themed restaurant name] and was like, “wait. my mom makes this.”

So yea. I’ll eat my own words. I guess this stuff is authentic after all.

Anyway, I believe stir fry purists would say you should 1) marinate for 30 min then cook the chicken until mostly done, remove. 2) heat oil back up again, add garlic, fresh ginger, and chilies to release the full flavors, then 3) add the chicken back in, the sauce, then the green onions, and lastly the nuts (my mother uses peanuts).

But MAN that sounds way too complicated. And after a long freaking day at work, I do NOT want to have to think about “what do I do next again?” Solution? Add everything into the marinade. Sure my mom still makes it better. But mine is FASTER. and with WHITE meat. JUICY white meat, I might add… because I marinate overnight instead of on the counter for 30 min (I chalk that tradition up to the fact that my ancestors did not have refrigerators and to let your chicken sit overnight is to kill your whole family w/ salmonella.)

So here goes. Kung Pao Chicken, simplified:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 lb chicken tenders
  • ~1/2+ cup soy sauce or enough to cover chicken
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1-2 tsp sesame oil
  • ~5 dried chili peppers, sliced diagonally
  • 1 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 1-2 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tbs Chinese rice wine
  • optional: Chinese black vinegar (I had none. Didn’t miss it)
  • 2 talks green onion, chopped in 2 inch sections
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted cashews
  • oil for stir frying (NOT olive oil. something with a high smoke point like peanut oil is better)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cut chicken into small pieces, about 1 inch cube.
  2. In a deep container (I like to use glass tupperware) mix soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, sesame oil, ginger, chili peppers, and corn starch until thickened. Adjust to taste. Add chicken, cover, and marinate overnight (if using dark meat, 15-30 minutes is plenty. Overnight is if you want to make healthy crappy white meat juicier.).
  3. Heat a wok or large frying pan on high. Add oil and heat until shimmering. Add chicken and marinade. Stir until chicken is cooked through. Add green onions and cashews. Toss until green onions become fragrant (1 min or so). Remove from heat and serve.

Stir Fry Tips:

  1. Use a hot Guo1, or pot/wok. I mean HOT. Like smoking red hot. Then add oil and let it heat until shimmery. Always. Hot pot and hot oil = less crap sticking to your pan.
  2. Always add green onion last. You still want to stir fry it a bit to let the flavors release (you’ll be able to smell it when it does), but cook it any longer than absolutely necessary and you’ll get limp ugly green onion. Green onion should act as a garnish as well as an aromatic. It should be bright, green, and pretty.

Thank you, Mama Chen for teaching me well.

August 5, 2012

Manila Clams with Basil + Notes on BUTTER

Didn’t really expect this to turn out as well as it did, seeing as I totally winged it and just threw in stuff from my fridge. But I’m DEFINITELY making this again. Probably one of my most successful creations.

Image

Love these Bunashimeji mushrooms, btw. A bouncier, more complimenting texture to the clams than enoki, which is what I usually keep at home for soups and hot pots. Here’s my Japanese mushroom pictionary reference source: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2340.html

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb live manila clams
  • 1 tbs peanut oil/cooking oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • handful of small basil leaves
  • 1 batch Bunashimeji mushrooms (see pic)
  • 1 spoonful of white Shiro Miso
  • ~1/4 cup soy sauce (add to taste)
  • 1 -2 tbs Mirin
  • 1/4 cup Moscato or other sweet white wine (or regular white wine + 1 tsp sugar)
  • 1 tbs good, unsalted butter
  • red chili pepper flakes, for color mostly…little sliced chili peppers will do, too

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare clams: Scrub the suckers clean. Then submerge clams in a deep bowl with salt water. (Like..ocean-water-salty. Makes sense, no?) Add a few ice cubes to keep it cold. Do this well in advance, at least a few hours before cooking. Drain and rinse clean. This gives the clams time to spit out sand and crud.
  2. In a medium sized saute pan (with a lid), heat a bit of oil over medium high until shimmery and hot. Saute garlic until just fragrant (careful not to burn), then add soy sauce and mushrooms. Stir fry 1-2 min to soften.
  3. Stir in miso until dissolved. Add mirin and white wine (if you’re using a regular, non sweet white wine, dissolve in a tsp of sugar). Bring to a boil.
  4. Add clams and cover immediately. In about 3 min, clams should slowly start to open up. Wait for it. Some are slower than others to respond (like humans). Uncover and add basil and butter. Stir until butter melts into the sauce. Remove and plate. Toss out unopened clams (they were dead before they hit the pan. No good.) Sprinkle on red pepper flakes and serve.

NOTES ON BUTTER:

  1. Adding butter at the end instead of sauteing with it in the beginning lets the flavor of butter stand out more. It’s also used to thicken the final sauce. Something I read somewhere. So don’t waste good butter on early steps of a recipe. And DON’T buy cheap butter you don’t mind wasting.
  2. When in doubt, get unsalted. You can use it for cooking aND baking.
  3. Don’t bake with salted butter. It messes up the ingredients ratio.
  4. Learn to make Ghee. THIS you can saute with. In fact, use it instead of oil from here on out. It doesn’t burn. It doesn’t smoke. It doesn’t spoil. And it tastes like HEAVEN.
  5. Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter is rich and creamy. Kind of cheesy. Which can be good or bad, depending on your preference. Smells divine. Good for finishing sauces.
  6. For batch baking, or making ghee in large quantities (which is the ONLY way to make ghee), Land O Lakes is surprisingly amazing. Very rich butter flavor, doesn’t taste like artificial popcorn flavoring like other cheaper brands, and it has this awesome FLAVOR protecting wrapper.

Oh, and I’ve taken to keeping a 4 pack of Sutter Home Moscato in my fridge at all times. Use what you need and drink the rest. Perfect one time servings for those that don’t drink enough to buy a whole bottle for one recipe.