Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bucatini with Sausage and Pomodoro al Forno

Experimenting with another version of a tomato sauce tonight.  I'm using this recipe from my neighborhood restaurant, Cafe Lago, and altering just slightly to turn it into a sauce for some bucatini. The result, I'm hoping, will be a deep, rich tomato sauce.

1 cups (or more) olive oil, divided
2 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeded
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound Italian sausage
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons mascarpone


Since it is not the best of tomato season, I bought the roma tomatoes ahead of time and kept them until they were soft and ripe.  
Preheat oven to 250°F. Pour 1/2 cup oil into a glass or ceramic baking dish large enough to hold the tomatoes. Arrange tomatoes in dish, cut side up. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup oil. Sprinkle with oregano, sugar, and salt. Bake 1 hour. Using tongs, turn tomatoes over. Bake 1 hour longer. Turn tomatoes over again. Bake until deep red and very tender, transferring tomatoes to plate when soft (time will vary, depending on ripeness of tomatoes), about 15 to 45 minutes longer.
When cool enough to handle, roughly chop the tomatoes.  Reserve the olive oil.
Heat a large pan over medium high heat.  Add the sausage and fry until well browned.
Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil from the tomatoes and then the garlic.  I kept the rest of the olive oil for a future use, like for a salad dressing.
Add the tomatoes, toss to combine and cook for another 5 minutes or so until well incorporated.
Add the mascarpone and stir to incorporate.
Cook the bucatini according to the package instructions.
Toss the bucatini in the sauce.
Serve with freshly grated parmigiano.
Fabulous!  I had thirds.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Braised Pork Belly Chinese Street Sandwich


Last week we came across this tidbit of goodness while having lunch at China Poblano.  It was reminiscent of two things I make but never thought to put together.  Chris and Maggie have been requesting it ever since that lunch.  Make a bing, but don't fill it until after it's cooked.  Braise some pork belly in soy sauce, wine and sugar and make a sandwich.  It's so right, why had it not happened sooner?

For the dough:
3 1/4 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon grape seed oil
Dissolve the sugar in the water then add the yeast and stir gently.  Let sit for about 10 minutes until the top is frothy. In a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour and the salt.  Stir to combine, then with the mixer on low, add the water mixture in a steady stream along with the oil.  Knead the dough on low for about 5-6 minutes until the dough is well combined and smooth.  If the dough does not come together well, you may need to add a bit more water.  If the dough is too wet, add more flour.  It should be wet to the touch, but not too sticky.
Take the dough out and knead with your hands until smooth.  It should only take a minute or two.  Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough inside.  Cover with a damp towel and let sit to rise for about 3 hours.  
If you are not yet ready to use the dough, cover and refrigerate it, and take out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before using.

To make the bing sandwich buns:
Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces, about 2.75 ounces each.  Roll each piece of dough into a 5-6 inch slightly oval disc.  Use as much flour as you need to work the dough and keep the pieces you are not working with covered with a clean kitchen towel to keep them from drying out.
Lay the discs on clean kitchen towels and cover them.  Let sit to rise for another 30 minutes to an hour.
Cook the bings using a large cast iron skillet in batches.  I cooked just what we were eating tonight and froze the rest.  
Heat the skillet on medium-low.  Put enough oil in the skillet to just coat the bottom.  Place the bings in the skillet and fry each side until lightly browned.  Cover the skillet with a lid as you fry each side.  They will puff up a bit and you can press them down gently with a large spatula to help them fry evenly.
Keep the cooked ones warm in a warmed oven until ready to use.

For the braised or red cooked pork filling:
1 1/2 pounds pork belly, trimmed of most fat, cut into large pieces
1 inch piece of ginger, cut into thick slices
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup dark soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 ounce rock sugar
In a heavy dutch oven or pot, brown the pork belly in batches.  Set aside.
Saute the onion, garlic and ginger until lightly browned.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Return the pork to the pot.  Cover and simmer until pork is just tender, but not falling apart, about 45 minutes to an hour.  Turn and rotate the pork once or twice during this time to make for even cooking.  
Remove the pork to a dish and cover until cool enough to handle.  
Continue to cook the sauce by boiling it over medium high heat, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes.  This will reduce and concentrate the sauce.
Cut the pork into small cubes, about 1/3 x 1/3 inch pieces.
Return the pork to  the pot and continue to cook for another 20-30 minutes or until pork is very tender.  Drain the sauce from the pork.  You can keep the sauce and use it again for another braising, use it to drizzle over rice, or discard it, the latter being of course the worst choice.
Cover and keep the pork warm.

To assemble sandwiches, slice it through the middle, making a little pocket in the bing.  Be careful not to slice it all the way through.  It is meant to hold and contain the pork like a pocket.  Spoon some pork into the bing and garnish with sliced scallions and fresh cilantro leaves.
Super delicious, but a note on the bing.  These were more doughy than what we had at China Poblano.  Theirs might have been made with shortening ala a tortilla.  These were really good, but not exactly the same.  Still, I don't know that I would alter my recipe the next go around.  All right... I might, just because I like to experiment.  But I guess what I'm saying is thought not the same, these were just a good.

Shopping From My Own Kitchen Pork Buns

Here's the second half of my Saturday big bing and bun making session.  The Street Sandwich was planned, but then I thought, while I'm at it, might as well do more.  I was already making the dough for the sandwiches, so I'll just make another batch.  For the filling, I went for a freezer dive and came up with pork I had trimmed from a couple racks of spare ribs.  After defrosting the pork, I cut it into chunks and then used the food processor to finely chop it.  Ground pork from the store would work as well.

For the dough:
3 1/4 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon grape seed oil
Dissolve the sugar in the water then add the yeast and stir gently.  Let sit for about 10 minutes until the top is frothy. In a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour and the salt.  Stir to combine, then with the mixer on low, add the water mixture in a steady stream along with the oil.  Knead the dough on low for about 5-6 minutes until the dough is well combined and smooth.  If the dough does not come together well, you may need to add a bit more water.  If the dough is too wet, add more flour.  It should be wet to the touch, but not too sticky.
Take the dough out and knead with your hands until smooth.  It should only take a minute or two.  Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough inside.  Cover with a damp towel and let sit to rise for about 3 hours.  
If you are not yet ready to use the dough, cover and refrigerate it, and take out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before using.

For the pork filling:
2 lbs ground pork
One 8 oz can water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water until softened, finely chopped, liquid reserved
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
6 scallions, finely sliced
3 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup liquid from shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon corn starch

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

To make the buns:
Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces, about 1 1/2 ounce each. Reform each piece into a round.  Use as much flour as you need to work with the dough.  Cover the pieces you are not working with with a clean kitchen towel.
Roll the dough out, place a large spoonful of the filling into the middle, and pull the dough over the filling and pinch at the top to form a bun.
To cook the buns, use a heavy cast iron skillet.
Heat the skillet over medium high heat.  Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet.
Place the buns in the skillet and fry the bottom until just hardened and slightly golden brown.
Make sure the buns are not touching each other, or they may stick together during cooking and tear apart when you try to remove them from the skillet.
Put 3/4 cup hot water into the skillet and cover and cook until water is evaporated.
Uncover the skillet and continue to fry the bottoms of the buns until they are deep golden brown.
Serve them immediately.  With any left over buns, you can freeze them and rewarm them in the microwave for a snack for school lunch.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kalbi Beef Jerky

I have always wanted to make my own beef jerky and last week, I finally bought myself a dehydrator.  You can make jerky in the oven, but I've always wanted to play with a dehydrator.  This is pretty much the easiest beef jerky recipe if you have a dehydrator and it made the best beef jerky we've ever had.  It even has the Stella stamp of approval.

2 lbs flank steak
2/3 cup prepared Kalbi marinade (I used CJ brand)
To make it easier to cut the flank steak, you can put it in the freezer for about half an hour.  Trim the steak of all fat and sinew.  Slice the slice, cross-wise, across the grain into 1/4" thick pieces.
Marinate the steak slices in the kalbi marinade overnight.
Follow the instructions on your dehydrator for operating it.  Lay the slices of steak on the racks making sure they do not overlap or touch each other.  
Dehydrators are different and have different levels of power.  I bought a 700W, Nesco 5 Tray Food Dehydrator.  I set the dehydrator to 160f and ran it for 3.5-4 hours.  Because some slices were slightly thinner or were stretched out when I laid them on the tray, some pieces dried faster and were removed earlier.
To store the jerky, I put half in a food saver bag and shrink wrapped it.  The rest were placed into a zip lock bag to eat right away.  Both were stored in the refrigerator.
Really good!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Baked Chicken and Shiitake Mushroom Rice

Today was one of those days cloaked in grey and drenched by a steady rain.  A cozy baked chicken and rice dish seemed appropriate.  I decided to use the paella pan instead of the clay pot just to try something different.  

1 whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces (breasts cut in half to make the 10 pieces), or whatever chicken pieces you want, just drumsticks, thighs, breasts or combo thereof

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, finely minced

2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, cut in half if larger
2 green onions, sliced diagonally
2 cups short grain rice
4 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375f
Generously salt and pepper the chicken on both sides.  
Heat the pan over medium high heat.  You don't necessarily have to use a paella pan.  A regular skillet would work as well.
Add 2 tablespoons of grape seed oil to the pan.  Fry the chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, not to crowd the pan.  Fry until golden brown.  The chicken should be just par-cooked. 
Remove the chicken to a dish and set aside.  
Remove all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the pan.  Add the ginger and garlic and fry until fragrant, then add the mushrooms.  Continue to fry until mushrooms just start to soften, then add the rice and green onions.  Toss to incorporate the rice.  
Add the chicken stock and using a spatula, scrape up any browned bits that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Taste the stock for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.  Simmer the rice for 5 minutes.
Return the chicken to the pan and lay just on top of the rice.
Place the pan into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until chicken is cooked through and rice is tender and liquid is evaporated.  Cozy and satisfying.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Spicy Wok Fried Lamb with Celery and Leek

I bought a boneless leg of lamb the other day and decided to portion it out for two meals.  Tonight, it's going to be Chinese.  I feel like we don't see much lamb in the Chinese restaurants around here.  It was not a favorite of mine growing up.. back when the lamb was much more gamey than it is today.  Nowadays, I'm always seeking it out when we go out for Chinese food.  I do like a spicy, wok fried lamb.  

1 lb leg of lamb cut into thick strips
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 tablespoon veg oil
Marinate the lamb in the sauce for a few hours.
Combine (#1):
1 tablespoon finely julienned fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 serrano chilis, some or all seeds removed, julienned (the more seeds you keep, the spicier it will be)

Combine (#2)
6-8 celery stalks. sliced on the diagonal
1 leek, sliced on the diagonal
A note on the celery:  I like to use the tender hears including the leaves and so more stalks are required as they are smaller.  If you're using the outer larger pieces, you can use less.

Combine: (#3)
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch

Add 1 tablespoon of corn starch to the lamb right before cooking and stir well to combine.  Heat a large wok over high heat until smoking.  Add 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl the wok to coat.  Fry the lamb until it is well browned.  Remove the lamb to the bowl you used to marinate it in and set aside.
In the same wok, add the #1 combo into the wok and fry for 30 seconds, then add combo #2 and fry until vegetable are just tender, several minutes.  
Before adding the lamb, pour out any liquid that has accumulated in the bowl.  Add the lamb to the wok and the the sauce, #3, and fry for a couple more minutes.  
Serve with a handful of fresh cilantro on top and a bowl of rice. Loved it.