Meatless Monday: Ensalada Caprese Stack with Toasted Garlic “Croutons” and Savory Butternut Squash Soup

Photo by Kathyhuntphoto.com

Meatless Monday seems to be growing in popularity and meat lover that I am, I’ve been avoiding it like the plague! But now that the holidays are over and I’m back to eating relatively healthful food day to day but…I still have pants in the closet that I can’t fit into anymore!

While I’m well aware that eating veggies only once a week isn’t going to make a significant impact it’s certainly a step in the right direction. It also starts off the week with a kick to my immune system and sets the stage for eating good wholesome food throughout the rest of the week.  So, meatless Monday it is!

Bacon bits just wouldn’t have been right so I went with the garlic “croutons”. These are not actually croutons but simply pan toasted chopped garlic. These yummy little tidbits pack a punch, are easy to make and great as a garnish for soups, salads, or even cooked vegetables.

I use a little dairy in both of these recipes. If you avoid dairy try making the tomato stack with firm tofu in place of the mozzarella cheese and unsweetened almond milk would be very good in the soup.

Note: The soup is best if made the day before and it also makes this an easy dinner to prepare on a Monday night!

Savory Butternut Squash Soup

1 – Large butternut squash
1 – Whole head of garlic
1 – Med yellow onion, halved then sliced thin
1 Tbsp – Fresh ginger, grated
6 Cups – Low sodium vegetable broth
1 Cup – Low fat kefir, plain (or non-fat buttermilk)
Olive Oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil (or canola)
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and spritz with cooking spray. Quarter the squash leaving the seeds intact and place skin side down on the baking pan. Spritz the squash with a little of the cooking spray and season with salt and pepper.

Very carefully cut roughly ½ inch off the top (pointy end) of the garlic head. (The idea is to expose as many of the cloves as possible without removing too much of the meat.) Place the garlic on a piece of foil then drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil evenly over the top. Season with salt and pepper then bring the edges of the foil together over the top of the garlic head to seal.

Now place the baking sheet into the oven then place the neat little package of garlic on one of the corners of the baking sheet alongside the squash. Bake for 45 minutes, carefully remove the garlic and bake the squash 15 minutes more. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the squash is cooling add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a 4 quart sauce pan and place over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the pan is sizzling and the onion has begun to become transparent. Lower the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the onion turn golden, about 10 minutes.

When the squash have cooled enough to work with remove the skin and the seeds. (If they are not too burned; save the seeds for garnish or to munch on later.) As you work, place the cooked squash pieces into the pan along with the onions continuing to stir once in a while. Carefully remove the garlic cloves from the head and gently squeeze the roasted meat out of the skin, adding this to the pan with the onions and squash.

When you have all of the squash and the garlic added to the pan, add 2 cups of the broth, raise the heat to medium high and cook stirring often until most of the broth has evaporated. Stir in 3 more cups of broth and reserve the remaining cup for later. Allow the soup to just come back to a boil then remove it from the heat.

With the pan off of the heat, use an immersion blender to carefully puree the soup while adding the kefir a little at a time. Blend until all of the ingredients are well pureed and the soup has become silky smooth. Check the flavor and add salt and pepper if needed then return the pan to the heat and cook stirring often until heated through. If the soup is too think stir in the reserved cup of broth to bring back the consistency. Serve garnished with toasted garlic “croutons” and just a few shavings of parmesan cheese.

Ensalada Caprese Stack with Toasted Garlic “Croutons”

1 – Med to med-large very fresh, very ripe tomato per person, rinsed well
4 – ¼ thick slices fresh mozzarella per tomato
1 branch – Fresh basil, per tomato
Aged balsamic vinegar (I used12 year old)
Extra virgin olive oil
Mixed baby greens salad
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Slice enough off the bottom of each tomato to allow it to sit flat. Working one tomato at a time and slicing horizontally cut each into five equal slices including the top. Position the tomato slices in such a way that you can easily reassemble them into the original tomato shape.

Starting at the bottom, sprinkle the first slice with a little kosher salt & pepper. Now add a slice of mozzarella and a leaf or two of fresh basil, then drizzle this with a little of the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Set the next tomato slice on top and repeat the process until the tomato is reassembled with salt and pepper, cheese, basil, and oil and vinegar between each slice.

Before putting the top back on the tomato carefully cut out the stem, then after placing the top back on the tomato, drizzle a little more oil and vinegar into the hole left behind. Pinch the top of f of a branch of basil and place the stem end into the same hole so that it appears to be leaves on the tomato.

To serve, spread a serving of mixed baby greens on the plate then carefully set the tomato in the center. Sprinkle the greens with a little of the oil and vinegar, then garnish with toasted garlic “croutons” and just a few shavings of parmesan cheese.

Toasted Garlic Croutons

 2 to 4 Tbsp – Garlic, roughly chopped (large mince)
2 Tbsp – Olive Oil
1 – Pinch of kosher salt

Warm a small non-stick pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer lower the heat to low and stir in the garlic. Stirring very often to avoid burning, cook until all of the garlic has become evenly cooked and golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic to drain on a paper towel much as you would with bacon. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and shake the paper towel a little to distribute and to spread out the garlic so the pieces don’t stick together. Allow “croutons” a minute or two to dry before serving.

Enjoy!

Randy

Velveting Chicken 101 – Chicken Stir Fry with Chive Blossoms, White Birch and Enokitake Mushrooms

Photo by kathyhuntphoto.com

Have you ever wondered how Chinese restaurants get their chicken so moist and tender? I used to think they had added MSG or some secret tenderizer that made the chicken taste great but was probably horrible for you. I had all but given up on figuring it out, relegating myself to Chinese takeout when I craved that “velvety” goodness when I came across an article about a cooking process actually called velveting.

Used not only for chicken, but also for beef and even pork, velveting is the simple process of marinating the meat in a “batter” of egg whites and corn starch then frying or poaching to set the coating. In restaurants they usually fry the meat quickly in plenty of oil but having tried both I actually prefer poaching. I think the protein comes out more moist and tender when cooked in water and using a little less oil certainly never hurts.

Below is the recipe I prepared most recently but the beauty of a stir fry is the unlimited number of combinations of ingredients you can use. This one would be good with broccoli, snow peas, and maybe even a few cashews in place of the chive blossoms and mushrooms…use your imagination and see what new dish you can dream up. Just remember to cook your vegetables starting with the ones that take longest to cook and finishing with the most delicate.

Chicken Stir Fry with Chive Blossoms, White Birch and Enokitake Mushrooms

To velvet the chicken…

2 – Boneless skinless chicken breasts, about ¾ lbs
1 – Egg white
1 Tbsp. – Corn starch
1 Tbsp. – Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1 Tbsp. – Sesame oil
1 sprinkle – Kosher salt

Slice the chicken breast into thin, even slices 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. In a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken, combine the 5 remaining ingredients and whisk to thoroughly blend. Stir in the chicken slices and toss to coat well. Cover and set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

In a wok over high heat bring 8 cups of water to a very light boil. Reduce the heat to medium and poach the chicken in two batches stirring gently to separate the pieces. Cook until the chicken turns mostly white (about two minutes) then remove to a strainer to drain.

Your chicken is now velveted and ready to use in your favorite stir fry!

For the stir fry…

2 cups – Velveted chicken breast
4 cups – Chive blossoms, sliced in two to three inch pieces, tough bottoms removed
2 cups – White birch mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and separated
1 package – Enokitake mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and separated (roughly 1 cups worth)
½ Cup – Chicken broth
2 Tbsp. – Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
2 Tbsp. – Tamari
1-1/2 Tbsp. – Hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. – Garlic, finely minced or pureed
1 Tbsp. – Ginger, finely minced or pureed
1 Tbsp. – Corn starch
1 Tbsp. – Sesame oil
1 Tbsp. – Grape seed or peanut oil

In a small bowl mix the chicken broth, wine, tamari, hoisin, and corn starch until well blended. Set this aside for later.

Heat the wok over high heat and add the oils. Stirring rapidly, add the garlic and ginger and cook about 30 seconds continuing to stir. Stir in the white birch mushrooms and cook one minute before adding the chive blossoms, cook two minutes more while stirring…try to keep the ingredients spread out rather than all crowded in the middle of the wok.

Stir in the chicken then pour in the sauce mixture tossing all to combine. Continue cooking only until the sauce has come to a boil and has begun to thicken.

With the wok off of the heat gently stir in most of the enokitaki mushrooms reserving some for garnish.

Serve over cooked rice and enjoy!

Randy

Menu – Lightly Blackened Scallops with Crispy Prosciutto and an Orange, Rosemary, & White Wine Reduction, Cauliflower Mash with Boursin, & Julienned Snow Peas with Toasted Pine Nuts and Orange Supremes

Photo by Kathyhuntphoto.com

The other night I set out looking for clams to make a fresh clam, broccoli rabe, and sausage dish I had in mind. Alas, I came home with scallops. As funny as that sounds I was a little disappointed that the clams at the two purveyors I visited appeared to have been languishing in their little net bags just a little too long. With all seafood and especially shellfish I am extremely picky about freshness…I had to take a pass on the clams. But being the Friday before Christmas I did want to make a special dinner so Costco and their frozen sea scallops saved the day again. As I’ve mentioned before, I really like these “dry-packed” flash frozen scallops and I still always verify “Ingredients: Sea Scallops”. No salt and definitely no sodium tripolyphosphate!

To prepare these scallops for cooking simply give them a quick rinse, carefully remove the little hard tab of adductor muscle off of the side of each scallop, then dab them with a paper towel to dry. I usually place them on another paper towel set on a plate and refrigerate the scallops while I’m getting everything else ready. Keeping the scallops dry helps to promote browning once the scallops to hit the pan.

In this recipe I use the rosemary and the prosciutto to infuse the olive oil with flavor before cooking the scallops. I found that blackening seasoning alone was a little too much for the delicate scallops but with the flour added the seasonings were perfect and the flour helped form a nice crust. To ensure that even caramelization on the crust try not to move the scallops too much once they are in the pan…set them in, swirling the pan a little to distribute the oil, then leave them alone until you turn them. Timing is important so I suggest preparing the cauliflower first, blanching the snow peas while the cauliflower is steaming. Then while the scallops are cooking it only takes a minute or two to finish the snow peas and process the cauliflower.

Keep your eye out for that clam, broccoli rabe, and sausage recipe…as soon as I can find some decent clams!

Lightly Blackened Scallops with Crispy Prosciutto and an Orange, White Wine, and Rosemary Reduction Sauce

3 – Large dry packed sea scallops per person (Adductor muscles removed)
Juice of 1 Orange, zest reserved
1/8 cup – Dry white wine
3 large or 4 medium sprigs fresh rosemary
1 – Level teaspoon blackening seasonings
1 – Heaping teaspoon whole wheat flour
½ Stick – cold unsalted butter, quartered and cut into 16 cubes
2 Tbsp – Prosciutto, sliced thin then sliced across into 1/8 to ¼ inch strips
Extra virgin olive oil

In a 10 inch non-stick skillet heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add ¾ of the fresh rosemary and swirl the pan to cook, pressing the rosemary into the olive oil with a wooden fork from time to time. Cook until the smell of rosemary is permeating the kitchen. (Your family may come in to see what smells so doggone good!)  After 5 minutes or so the rosemary will begin to look brown and crisp. Use the fork to carefully remove the rosemary allowing any excess oil to drain back into the pan. Set the rosemary aside.

Over the same medium heat, add the prosciutto to the pan and stir briskly while shaking the pan to separate the pieces. Cook stirring constantly until the prosciutto begins to brown. When the prosciutto has changed color and appears mostly browned, empty the pan into a strainer, reserving the oil. Once the oil has mostly drained, set the prosciutto on a paper towel to dry (much like bacon). Return the captured oil to the pan and set back on the heat.

Combine the blackening seasonings and the flour and stir to mix. Press both flat sides of each scallop into the flour mixture then place the scallops directly into the pan swirling occasionally to distribute the oil.  Cook the scallops about two minutes, turn and cook two minutes to two and a half minutes more to caramelize before removing to the serving plates. Note: Scallops should be cooked “almost” all the way through when you move them to the plates. The residual heat will finish cooking them while you make the sauce.

Return the pan to the heat and increase the heat to medium high adding the orange juice, the remaining rosemary, and the wine to the pan to deglaze. Allow the liquids to boil swirling the pan occasionally until the sauce comes to a syrupy consistency. When the liquids have mostly reduced and have become syrupy, remove the rosemary. Add the butter 4 cubes at a time swirling the pan (or gently whisking) off the heat to incorporate the melted butter. Return the pan to the heat occasionally to keep the butter melting and repeat until the sauce has thickened and the all of the butter is incorporated.

To serve, drizzle a small amount of the sauce over each scallop then top each with some of the crispy prosciutto and garnish with orange zest.

Cauliflower Mash with Boursin

1 – Small head of Cauliflower
¼ cup – Chicken broth
2 Tbsp – Garlic & herb Boursin cheese
1 Tbsp – Unsalted butter
1 dash – Fresh ground nutmeg
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add a steamer basket to a medium sized stew pot along with 1-1/2 cups of water. Place the cauliflower in the steamer basket and bring the pot to a boil over medium high heat. When the water is boiling place a lid on the pot and steam until the cauliflower is quite tender, about 10 minutes.

Move the pot from the heat and very carefully transfer the cauliflower to a food processor with a standard blade. Use a wooden spoon to break up the cauliflower then add the broth, boursin, butter, and nutmeg. Process until smooth, check for seasonings and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Julienned Snow Peas with Toasted Pine Nuts and Orange Supremes

½ Lb – Snow Peas, julienned (sliced lengthwise into 3 or 4 pieces)
1 heaping Tbsp. – Pine nuts
1 – Small navel orange, cut into supremes ( How to   )
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 cups – Water

Add water, salt, and the snow peas to a sauce pan over medium high heat. When the water comes to a full boil remove the pan from the heat and strain.

While the peas are draining dry the pan then place it over medium heat for one minute. Add the pine nuts to the dry pan and cook stirring constantly until the nuts begin to brown in spots.

Over the same heat, add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to the pine nuts and stir in the oranges. As soon as the pan begins to simmer, stir in the snow peas and cook until heated through. Stir in kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Randy

Crusty Chicken with Mushroom & Leek Sauce

Photo by kathyhuntphoto.com

Photo by kathyhuntphoto.com

I just have to say Jacques Pepin is one of my favorite “celebrity” chefs! Between the wonderful shows with he and Julia Child and the “you can do this at home” approach to so many of his recipes, I really have grown to appreciate his work. Tonight was no exception as I was looking to use a giant chicken that my wife brought home but wanted something fast, something other than the same old tired recipes.

Jacques calls for chicken thighs but I split that giant chicken in half saving half (still over 3 lbs of chicken!) for later. Leaving the chicken intact, I removed all but the largest bones from the half that I did cook making it lay nice and flat in the pan…it cooked up perfectly! I took a few other small liberties with the recipe but the credit for this one absolutely goes to Jacques. Thank you Chef Pepin for all that you do!

For your cooking pleasure you can find the original recipe here: http://www.kqed.org/w/morefastfoodmyway/recipes.html#210

Crusty Chicken with Mushroom & Leek Sauce

One half chicken, intact with all but the largest bones removed, skin on
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup leeks, rinsed and halves lengthwise, then sliced in ¼ inch slices
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
3 cups washed and sliced (1/4 inch) baby bella or white mushrooms
Roughly 1/3 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp parsley chopped fresh, plus one Tbsp for garnish

Arrange the chicken skin side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp paring knife, trim off any excess skin at the edges, remove wing tips, and cut about 1/2 inch deep into the flesh on either side of the thigh bone. (This will help the meat cook more quickly.) Sprinkle each side evenly with ½ of the salt and pepper and arrange the chicken skin side down in a nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting lid.

Place the skillet over high heat and when the chicken starts sizzling reduce the heat to medium low, cover tightly, and cook for 18 to 20 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the chicken is browning properly. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150 degrees. If the chicken seems to be cooking too fast after 10 minutes or so, reduce the heat to low. The skin of the chicken should be very crisp and brown. Transfer the chicken skin side up to an ovenproof platter and place it in the oven.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet in which you cooked the chicken. Add the leeks, garlic, and mushrooms and sauté them over high heat for about 3 minutes. Test for seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste then add the wine and any liquid that has accumulated around the thighs on the platter. Cook the sauce over high heat for about 1 minute to reduce the liquid.

Note: If a richer sauce is desired stir 1 Tbsp of butter into the mushrooms just before serving.

To serve, divide the sauce among serving plates. Carve the chicken into serving portions and place in the middle of the mushroom sauce on each plate, spoon some sauce over, sprinkle with additional fresh parsley, and serve.

Enjoy!

Randy

Oyako Donburi – A Little Warmth On A Rainy Night

Photo by kathyhuntphoto,com

Wikipedia defines Comfort Food as “food prepared traditionally, that may have a nostalgic or sentimental appeal, or simply provide an easy-to-eat, easy-to-digest meal rich in calories, nutrients or both”.

While I wouldn’t argue with any of the above I might add that, Comfort Food for me is often a dish that will comfort my soul following a rough time, can be a dish that reminds me of someone I care deeply about and most certainly, comfort food will warm the body on a cold day or the heart on a rainy one.

Getting back to the definition, Wikepedia goes on to say comfort foods can be “foods that have a nostalgic element either to an individual or specific culture” and this is where I get to my point. Oyako Donburi is a very well known comfort food in Japan and especially popular in Hawaii. It is a dish of chicken and eggs simmered in a warm broth and served in a bowl over rice.

In Japanese “Oyako” loosely translates to “parent and child” and “Donburi” is usually “bowl” or “rice bowl”. You may also see this dish called “Oyakodon” which is simply an abbreviation of the same. Vaguely similar in ingredients to the Vietnamese soup, Pho Ga, which has definitely become a comfort food for my wife and I, Oyako Donburi may well become our next new favorite.

Which brings me to today…it’s been raining steady here for two days straight and yesterday was a lazy, rainy Sunday.  It was the perfect day for making a big batch of homemade chicken stock and when the rain continued all day today, a comfort food meal seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. After a little research and some stovetop experimentation, Oyako Donburi was just the right prescription for a cozy night at home!

Notes: This recipe is not entirely authentic and is something of a fusion recipe as I use a Chinese method of “velveting” the chicken in step 1. Although you can skip this step and simply simmer the chicken pieces in the broth with the onions, I highly recommend taking the extra few minutes. The difference in flavor and texture is well worth the added effort.

Once the chicken is “velveted”, I prepare Step 3 one portion at a time for continuity…this step comes together fairly quickly. Feel free to experiment with ingredients; a Google search of Oyako Donburi recipes will give you many ideas from adding miso or cilantro to using bonito flakes (dried fish) for a variety of flavors.

Oyako Donburi

Begin by preparing enough brown rice for two 1 to 1-1/2 cup portions, then go to step 1 while the rice is cooking. The rice should be steaming hot when added to the bowls as it serves to finish cooking the eggs.

Step 1 – “Velvet” the chicken:

2 Tbsp – Dry sake
2 Tbsp – Warm water
2 Tbsp – Corn starch
1 – White of 1 large egg
1 – Good pinch of kosher salt
1 Large or 2 small – Chicken breast halves, split lengthwise then sliced crosswise into thin slices
1 Tsp – Sesame oil

Combine the first 5 ingredients and whisk only until well combined. Stir in the chicken pieces and marinate this mixture for at least ½ hour, refrigerated.

Fill a small wok (or a med sauce pan) at least half full with water and bring to a gentle boil. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil then carefully add ½ of the chicken, strained of excess marinade, and cook gently separating the chicken slices to prevent clumping.

When the chicken is solid white and cooked through (about 1-1/2 to two minutes) the chicken will begin to float. At that point, remove the chicken to a strainer to drain. Repeat until all of the chicken is cooked setting the strainer over a bowl to drain. Discard the water and if making ahead, refrigerate the chicken until ready to use. Note: I used a Chinese Spider Strainer for this cooking process and a traditional 8″ mesh strainer to drain the chicken.

Step 2 – Simmer and “bowl” the following 1 portion at a time

1/2 Cup – Fresh chicken broth
1 Portion – Chicken, prepared in step one
1 quarter – Large yellow onion, sliced in ¼” slices, divided
3 Med – Shitake mushroom caps, sliced in ¼” slices, divided
2 – Green Onions, sliced thin on a sharp angle (bias)
1/4 Cup – Fresh arugula (or spinach)
2 Tbsp – Dry sake
2 Tbsp – Tamari sauce
2 Tsp – Agave nectar
½ Tsp – Sesame Oil
2 eggs
Nori (Dried seaweed) for garnish

In a small wok or pan (I used a non-stick egg skillet) bring the broth to a gentle boil over medium high heat. Stir in the sake, tamari, agave nectar and sesame oil, then add the onion and mushroom slices. Simmer until the onions are just becoming translucent (about 5 minutes) then add the chicken from step 1 along with the arugula.

Simmer one minute more stirring to ensure even heating. (Note: If you are skipping step one, add the chicken one minute after the onions and mushrooms and simmer until cooked through, then add the arugula for one minute more.)

Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat just enough to break the yolks and slightly mix the eggs. Stir in half the sliced green onions then gently pour the eggs evenly over the top of the simmering broth. Cook 30 seconds, then using chop sticks, stir once just enough to distribute the eggs evenly, cover and cook 30 seconds more while you spoon the rice into a bowl for serving.

(If necessary microwave the rice for 30 seconds to make sure it’s hot then) Gently slide the cooked mixture out of the pan and into the bowl over 1 to ½ cups steaming hot rice.  Cover the bowl with a saucer and serve as the eggs finish cooking in the hot bowl. Garnish with the remainder of the sliced green onions and crumbled or sliced dried nori.

Enjoy!

Randy

A Healthier Hash – Ground Turkey Hash

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

I think I have mentioned before how much I loved my Mom’s corned beef hash (topped with poached eggs) when I was a kid. She pretty much always prepared it with the canned version and even as an adult I’ve made it quite often. As my eating habits have become more conscientious though, I’ve felt more and more hesitant to use the canned stuff, especially corned beef hash. Sure, I’ll eat fresh corned beef, steaks and burgers too, all in moderation of course. But when I open that can of corned beef hash and see all that greasy looking congealed fat I can almost feel it clogging my arteries as I cook it.

So this past weekend I had a package of ground turkey that needed to be used and being that it was Super Bowl Sunday I wanted a “Super” brunch. Hence what I’ll call “A Healthier Hash” using the ground turkey along with a few other things from the pantry. In order to replicate the corned beef hash flavor I started with a few ingredients common to corned beef including allspice and bay. Then, for the sake of either color or flavor I got a little creative with the mixture.

Cooking down the broth step by step not only ensures that the potatoes get cooked through; the flavor of the dish really gets a nice boost from the broth. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, be sure to let the hash cook without stirring as often. This allows for some nice browning to form on the bottom; those crunchy bits are packed full of flavor. Lowering the heat a little will help keep it from burning as it browns. The whole process takes about an hour but for all that flavor and a whole lot less fat; I thought it was well worth the effort. I hope you do too!

Ground Turkey Breakfast Hash

1 Lb – Ground Turkey (97% Lean)
1 Cup – Yukon Gold or Red Bliss potatoes, diced ¼ to ½ inch
1 Cup – Homemade or lower sodium chicken stock, divided
1 – Medium yellow onion, chopped
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
3 – Whole allspice berries
1 Sprig – Fresh rosemary
1 Star – Star anise
1 – Bay leaf
1 Tbsp – Ground turmeric
1 Tsp – Paprika
Kosher Salt & Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp – Olive Oil
¼ Cup – Fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Pre-heat a 12” non-stick pan over med-high heat and when the pan is hot add the olive oil and swirl in the pan to coat. Stir in the potatoes, onions, and garlic then add the allspice, rosemary, star anise, and bay leaf. Cook while stirring often until the onion begins to become transparent (about 5 minutes). Add the ground turkey, breaking it up as much as possible as you add it to the pan. Stir the mixture and continue to cook about 10 minutes more, stirring often and breaking the turkey into smaller pieces as it cooks.

When the turkey is nearly cooked lower the heat to medium and add about ¼ cup of the broth along with a few grinds of ground black pepper, the turmeric and the paprika. Stir the mixture well then cook, stirring less frequently until the pan is nearly dry (about 8-10 minutes). Continue this process, adding ¼ cup of broth at a time, until all of the broth has been cooked down, the potatoes are cooked through and some browning has begun. Before finishing, remove and discard the bay leaf, rosemary sprig, star anise, and allspice.

To finish, taste for seasonings and add kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to your taste. Stir in the chopped parsley and served topped with eggs cooked to your liking.

Enjoy!

Randy

Mmm Pork! Char siu “Style” Pork and Stir Fried Bean Sprouts

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

My wife and I attended a party last Saturday night…an Annual End of Summer Turkey Fry. It was a wonderful party hosted by our friends Joe & Linda and as usual the party was a huge success. As the enthusiastic crowd lined up with their plates to sample some of the 16 turkeys (yes, I said sixteen!) it didn’t take long to notice that the one poor guy that was carving and serving as fast as he could, was very quickly getting deep in the weeds.

Well, as any food lover worth his salt would do, I sprung into action, grabbed a knife and proceeded to help break down my fair share of the steaming hot birds. By the time the dust settled and the lines had dwindled down we had carved 13 turkeys. Both the cook and the gracious hostess insisted that the carvers “must” take home some of the leftover turkey…so who am I to refuse leftovers?

I ended up bringing home a whole 12 lb bird plus a jambalaya pot full of scraps.

Why all this turkey talk in a post about pork? Well, that was Saturday, and by Wednesday night we had eaten turkey gumbo, turkey with rice & gravy, turkey panini, and turkey hash (with poached eggs of course!). After turkey for lunch and turkey for dinner for four days straight, by last night I was ready for anything but turkey…I was ready for some pork!

Char siu, in Chinese, translates to fork burn (or roast). Interestingly the word Char actually means fork and siu, to burn or roast. This is the same “roast pork” that is often used in egg rolls, won-ton, fried rice, and myriad other ways in Chinese cooking. Traditionally it is hung on a hook or fork (Char) and roasted (siu) in an oven or over an open fire. Because this recipe strays from tradition (braised and not marinated for hours) I am calling it Char Siu “Style” Pork.

Here in the U.S. much of the Char siu that I have eaten has been dry and oftentimes chewier than I prefer, so for this recipe I set out to come up with something a little more juicy and tender. I decided on braising because this cooking method has been working very well for me with the leaner boneless pork country style ribs. Because I didn’t have time for a true marinade, I felt the braise would infuse the flavors most deeply in the shortest amount of time.

Would I recommend using this same recipe and marinating the pork overnight? Absolutely! I probably will do exactly that the next time around. But, for the relatively short (two hours overall) cooking time that I had, I think I was able to produce a reasonable Char Siu “Style” pork. It tasted right, was moist and quite tender and I was happy with the results. And, it wasn’t turkey!

Of note: This pork would also be quite good finished on the grill instead of the final uncovered baking. Look for the bean sprouts to be hot, with a little browning on the outside, but still crispy on the inside. You don’t want them to be limp. If you like a little heat try adding a tablespoon of sliced bird (or Thai chili) peppers at the same time as the green onions.

Char Siu Style Pork with Stir Fried Bean Sprouts

For the pork…

1 Package – Boneless Pork Country Style Ribs (About 2 Lbs)
1 Med – Yellow onion, sliced thick
¼ Cup – Shaoxing wine
½ Cup – Hoisin sauce
¼ Cup – Light soy sauce
2 Tbsp – Dark agave nectar
1 Tbsp – Fish sauce
¼ Tbsp – Toasted sesame oil
1 Med. Clove – Garlic, very finely minced
½ Tsp – Fresh ginger, very finely minced

For the bean sprouts…

4 Cups – Mung bean sprouts
4 – Green onions, cut in 1” to 1-1/2” pieces
1 Med. Clove – Garlic, very finely minced
½ Tsp – Fresh ginger, very finely minced
2 Tbsp – Sesame oil
¼ Tsp – Toasted sesame oil

To prepare the pork…

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a Dutch oven or a large, deep sauté pan with the sliced onions. Add the Shaoxing wine and bring to a mild simmer over medium heat.

Combine the Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, agave nectar, fish sauce, toasted sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a mixing bowl. Stir until well incorporated. One at a time, dip each rib into the sauce mixture to coat, then nestle them onto the bed of onions already in the pan. Place the remaining sauce in the refrigerator for later use.

When all of the ribs are coated and placed evenly on top of the onions, cover the pan firmly with aluminum foil before placing on the lid. Bake at 325 for 1-1/2 hours.

After 1-1/2 hours remove the ribs from the oven. Carefully remove the lid and the foil and then “very” carefully pour off most of the liquid (reserving the liquid for later use). Brush the remaining sauce mixture on the ribs and return them, uncovered, to the oven for 30 minutes more.

Remove the ribs from the oven and allow them to rest while you prepare the bean sprouts.

To prepare the bean sprouts…

Heat a wok (or sauté pan) over high heat until very hot. Add the oils, shaking the pan to distribute. Add the green onions, garlic, and ginger and cook stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add roughly 1/8 cup of the reserved cooking juices from the pork, then the bean sprouts and cook stirring constantly for 1 minute. Let this sit 30 seconds without stirring then remove from heat. That’s it…You’re ready to serve!

To serve…

Place about a one cup serving of the bean sprouts on the plate then fan sliced rib meat even on top. Garnish with (roughly) 1” pieces of julienned green onions and serve with a little of the cooking liquid as a dipping sauce.

Enjoy,

Randy