Thursday, June 16, 2011

Braised Memphis Barbecue Pork Belly with Roasted Tomatoes and Smoked Gruyere Southern Grits

This is it. This is the real thing guys. Have you ever been eating ribs and just wondered if that meat could be twice as thick, even more fatty, even more meaty, and without the obnoxious bone? Here... it is..

For real y'all. This is like having a giant chunk of nothing but rib meat. After every bite I took I laid on the ground with my eyes closed in pure bliss, partially because I was entering a food coma and partially because it was just so good. So good. The tomatoes were a delicious, colorful addition that made the sauce really sing. Instead of using a tomato based barbecue sauce, I thought some barbecue roasted tomatoes would incorporate some nice tomato flavor. I also kept it straight up Memphis style giving it a Willingham's dry rub and slow cookin' it, but I took it a little bit further and made a pan sauce out of all the fat that dripped out. I made up this recipe so nothing is really exact, but I'll try to help you guys recreate it if you're so inclined. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fried Rice with Lap Cheong

So I'm going to preface this blog post with a statement of complete truth: yes, you can make fried rice that tastes just like a Chinese restaurant's, but you probably won't be able to. In order to make true Chinese restaurant fried rice you basically need wok hei. Without wok hei you can still make damn good fried rice, as illustrated by the picture above..heh... Since finally inheriting the wok from my mom that has been used for nearly 30 years and has withstanded more heat than anything else I own, my fried rice has come a step closer. THANKS MAMA :) I used to have an outdoor wok burner and had some amazing Chinese dishes, but now I live in another city and in an apartment, so my dreams of wok hei'ing it up have vanished. This wok still works much better than my frying pan though. I'm also going to say that for the experienced, Young Chow Fried Rice (it's called many things, but that's what I say when I order it heheh) is the best fried rice ever created. It typically has almost no soy sauce and is completely reliant on the cooking ability of the chef and tastes better than any other rice dish ever created... it's so good.

Fried Rice with Lap Cheong
1 cup of DAY OLD ROOM TEMPERATURE cooked rice per serving
One small link of Chinese sausage aka lap cheong
Two cloves of garlic
A scallion diced
A quarter of an onion diced
A carrot diced
A mixture of light soy and dark soy. I'm not going to give an exact amount because everyone has different sauce preferences, but keep the mixture even. It gives the rice a good Chinese take out color and the light soy adds flavor.

Now this is a really easy recipe, but make sure that your burner is as high as it can go. Heat up your wok until it starts to slightly smoke, add oil and swirl it around. Once the oil starts smoking add the garlic and sausage. Stir fry until just before it burns and then add the vegetables except for the scallions (add a splash of rice wine now if you have some on hand). Cook for about 20 seconds and then add the rice. Toss the rice around and add the soy sauce. Make sure nothing is sticking or burning. Add the scallions just before serving and toss them around to get them incorporated. Serve.

When something is stir fried it really shouldn't be in the pan for more than a couple of minutes, stir frying is an extremely fast and efficient way of cooking. We're not braising here folks.

Oh and here's a little present for y'all. Chicken nuggets and french fries with barbeque sauce.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon - Revisted

So one of my first recipes was for Boeuf Bourguignon and it was one of the best dishes I've ever made. Could it be improved? Yes of course, everything can be improved! Make the dish as you do in the recipe, but let there be a bit more liquid. Take the entire pot and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Add some tomato paste to the saucepan and reduce the liquid until it coats the back of a spoon and has approached demi-glace territory. Add the meat and large vegetables back into the pan and let them heat back up. Add a cold tablespoon of butter to the sauce and take off heat. Stir it in and what you're left with is a thick, incredibly rich, luscious sauce that beats anything else. This is the best sauce for mashed potatoes ever...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chinese Noodles with Kecap Minis and Mushroom Soy Sauce

One reason I love Chinese food is the ability to improvise every time you cook. The abundant array of sauces makes it incredibly easy to create new sauces every time. The best way to think of a sauce, especially for noodles, is in different parts: sweet, savory, salty, spicy, base, etc. Usually I'll pick a sauce out of each group and put them together. Today I used Kecap Minis, which is a southeast Asian soy sauce that is thicker than normal, and Mushroom soy sauce, which is reminiscent of dark soy sauce with a hint of mushrooms. I used beef stock as my base for the sauce and added spicy sesame oil. It came out really nice and I got to use the chard I stole from an herb farm in World's Fair Park...I mean I guess it's free...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Spaghetti Bolognese

For everyone out there who thinks real Bolognese sauce is tomato sauce with meat, think again! It's actually flavored mainly by the essence of beef. The key to making a good Bolognese sauce is in the quality of the ingredients, especially the stock. I spent almost 8 hours yesterday making glace de viande, so it better have been the best of my life. was. Believe it or not, Bolognese's main flavor comes from the stock. It's such a simple dish that it's worth it to splurge on the ingredients. Spend some extra time making a beautiful stock, spend some extra $$$ the great tasting vegetables. It's worth it y'all.

Spaghetti Bolognese
3 Carrots
2 Stalks of celery
Half a large onion
A couple tablespoons of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan
3 cloves of garlic
1 lb of ground beef (it's best to have a blend of different meats, I just had some good grass-fed beef so I stuck with that)
Glass of red wine
3 cups of delicious beef stock
1 tbsp of fresh oregano
1 tbsp of fresh basil (these aren't needed, but I found some amazing fresh herbs ~*~for free~*~ so I threw em in)
Enough heavy cream to turn the sauce to a light orange

Sweat the vegetables in a large pot with the olive oil. When the vegetables are tender, add the ground beef. When the ground beef is lookin nice and there isn't any red left, throw in your wet ingredients and fresh herbs, except for the cream. Simmer this lightly for about two hours, then add the cream at the end to get the desired color. Toss in a pan with boiled spaghetti with a tbsp of the pasta water. Add some parsley to the pan and plate with parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Roasted Pork Belly with Chinese Greens and Carrots

Yesterday Olivia's mom took me to the chinese market before she left. Now I'm going to give y'all a heads up if you're ever in Knoxville...GO TO SUNRISE SUPERMARKET. It's ridiculous. I've never seen any kind of foreign market this big, it's literally the size of a Kroger but is stocked with Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Filipino, and even Russian foods. They even have a butcher! You can buy whole beef bones, pork belly, cow hooves, pig hooves, whole fish, really anything that walks and swims. After braising some pork belly last week I fell in love. It's a perfect cut of meat, a little on the fatty side, but when cooked correctly it totally melts in your mouth.

Roasted Pork Belly with Chinese Greens and Carrots
1 lb pork belly
A jar of spicy chicken and pork Korean BBQ marinade (any kind of Korean BBQ marinade can be used: Kalbi, Bulgogi, etc.)
Bunch of Chinese greens
Two Carrots 
Mushroom soy sauce (any kind of soy sauce can be used but I wanted to try out some of my new stuff)
2-3 cloves of garlic
Xiaoxing rice wine

This is a really easy recipe and only a couple of steps. First marinade the pork belly in enough sauce to cover it for up to 12 hours. Roast the pork belly in the oven at 350 for like 2-3 hours. It really depends on your cut of meat. Some have more meat and some have more fat, also some are thicker and some are thinner! While roasting, baste the meat with the bulgogi sauce whenever it's looking a bit dry. When it's done, let it rest for 10 minutes and carve it.

To make the greens and carrots, cut the carrots into cool looking shapes. Also trim your chinese greens of as much of the stalk as you can. Some stalk is all right, but you don't want to try to get one bite and end up pulling up all of them. Add oil to a wok and when it's smoking add the garlic. Then add the carrots and greens. Add a spoonful or two of the bulgogi sauce, a tblsp of xiaoxing cooking wine, and some soy sauce. Stir fry until the sauce has reduced and coats a spoon. Arrange the pork belly on top of the greens and then add the carrots. Spoon some sauce onto the plate and dig in!

Monday, May 30, 2011

New Camera and Trip to Birmingham

We have a new camera!!!! Olivia's dad decided to help us out and get us a Lumix G1. It takes awesome shots, has a nice screen, and is really comfortable. One of the best things about it is the fact that the viewfinder is an LCD screen, it really makes it a lot easier to look through. But this post isn't just about a fancy new awesome camera, it's about my trip to Birmingham with Olivia's family for Memorial Day.

Birmingham is a really cool town. I'll be honest, I think I like Birmingham more than Knoxville. Although I haven't experienced the breadth of Knoxville truly, I don't really like anything that I've seen other than Knoxville's downtown. Our downtown is the best part of the city. Memphis and Birmingham definitely have a more expansive and open downtown area, but Knoxville's is perfect for just parking the car and walking around. You can cover the whole area in an hour, mainly because it's one street long! 

We started off our trip to a place called the Peanut Depot. A local institution that sells peanuts by the pound made on antique machinery. We bought cajun, regular, and boiled peanuts. Boiled are probably my favorite because of how salty they are. I love salt and I've always wanted a peanut with a shell that's salty on the inside! Here it is!!! Delicious. Don't forget the pigeons outside that eat peanut shells and of course the Grapico, a southern tradition that I can't see becoming a tradition anywhere else (because it's not that good) ((just kidding)). We then went to some kind of junk store that's reminiscent of Bojo's Antiques in Memphis. We got some cool pictures there and also some sights that will surely be manifested into nightmares in the future.

The next day we took a 'lil trip on the road and saw the Birmingham campus and checked out Five Points South. This is definitely a cool part of town, think Market Square or Cooper Young. It's finally the only place I've found where you can just park the car and walk around. We checked out Charlemagne Records, a nice record store albeit a bit overpriced, and saw Frank Stitt's restaurants Chez Fonfon and Highlands Bar and Grill. Let me put it out there, if I live in Birmingham in the near future I will be working at one of these. We also stopped by the Continental Bakery and I bought five macarons and a really tasty, crusty baguette. Gotta say, my first macaron was pretty delicious. 

All in all it was a really fun trip and I enjoyed the time. I want to thank Olivia's family again for letting me come and refusing for me to pay for anything, I'll make it up to you guys! Oh yeah and I'll have that bbq sauce recipe before you know it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mapo Tofu

Hey guys! I'm really sorry that I haven't updated my blog in a while, but I just got a job at the Tomato Head in Knoxville! It's a pretty cool job, I'm mainly washing dishes and food running, but I'm trying to work my way up. Their food is pretty good too, I really haven't had anything bad yet which is the best thing. Everything is made in-house which is an awesome concept, one that all restaurants should adhere to. All sauces, dressings, and everything else most restaurants buy pre-made is made themselves. Even though there isn't really any kind of "chef" there, it's still a fun environment and good restaurant experience for me.

So for my recipe this week is for Ma Po Tofu one of the BEST tofu dishes. In my opinion, Mapo Tofu and lemongrass tofu are tied for most delicious tofu item...although Mapo wins generally because it's chinese and chinese food is the best. Sorry!

Ill be honest, I adapted this recipe from another website and didn't create it myself. Some things are better left to the actual Chinese people. Here is the recipe

Mapo Tofu (Adapted from Appetite For China)

Serves 4 to 5 as part of a multi-course meal, or 2 to 3 as the main entree
1 block soft or medium-firm tofu (about 1 pound), drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 pound ground pork or beef
2 leeks, green parts discarded and thinly sliced at an angle
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon fermented black beans (or subsitute black bean sauce)
2 1/2 tablespoons chili bean paste
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or sherry
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
Optional garnish: 1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallions

1. Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the sides. Add the pork and stir-fry until crispy and starting to brown but not yet dry, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, then add leeks, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Add the salted black beans and mash them with the back of a wooden spoon, breaking them up so they blend in well with the meat. Add the chili bean paste and ground Sichuan pepper and stir-fry for about 1 minute, until the oil is a rich red color.

3. Pour in the stock and stir well. Mix in the drained tofu gently by pushing the back of your ladle or wok scoop gently from the edges to the center of the wok or pan; don’t stir or the tofu may break up. And the rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, allowing the tofu has absorb the flavors of the sauce.

4. Add the cornstarch mixture, mixing well, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer to a deep plate or wide bowl, garnish with optional scallions, and serve hot.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Homemade Habanero Salsa

Hey guys! So I totally forgot to post this last week when I made carne asada, but I also made my own salsa! It's really easy AND really forgiving, which means that you can add as much of whatever as you like. I decided to do a habanero salsa because Food City had twelve habaneros on sale for $0.99.... I guess Knoxvillians don't care for their habaneros, hmm!

I added half of an onion, two large tomatoes, a habanero, a big handful of cilantro (I love cilantro, so maybe cut back if you're a soapie), two cloves of garlic, and the juice of half a lime. Pulse this in a food processor or blender until everything is incorporated but it isn't complete mush. I don't like store bought chunky style, but tiny dice-size chunks are perfect. One big key that most people forget is to SALT and PEPPER your salsa. It won't taste good until it has some pepper in it, I think that's honestly one of the keys to a good salsa.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Deconstructed Pot Stickers

 I used to have an obsession with pot stickers and made it my goal to eat them at every opportunity. I mean who wouldn't...they're delicious. I guess there's just something about being able to have so many different tastes all at once that makes them addicting.

I ran into a problem the last time I made them with Olivia who told me that she didn't like the meat on the inside because it was "too weird", but she liked eating the wrapper. She also told me that she used to take the meat out as a kid and eat the wrapper...So I decided to appease her by taking a pot sticker and making it exactly to her liking. Instead of putting the meat inside of the dough, I took it out. Instead of putting the vegetables in the filling, I put it in between the wrapper and the meat giving a really nice veggie crunch. I also decided to increase the surface area of the dumpling wrapper to give as much crispy friedness as possible. 

As with lots of Chinese dishes, I eyeball everything and honestly I think that's the best bet. It let's you really understand how the flavors react with each other. 

To make the dumpling wrappers, put two cups of flour in a bowl and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Add boiling water half a cup at a time until the dough can be formed into a ball. Then, flatten it out and cut out circle shapes. Fry these in oil until they have a nice crunch on BOTH sides and then pour a little bit of chicken stock in, like you were making a potsticker. To make the filling, put a pound of ground pork in a bowl and mix in a good dose of light soy, dark soy, sesame oil, some sriracha, and a big handful of green onions. Mix it all up and form into little disks. Fry this in a pan with oil. To make the bok choy, simply stirfry in garlic for a couple of minutes to slightly sear it and still leave a bit of a crunch. For the sauce combine light soy, dark soy, chili sesame oil, and a corn starch slurry in a pan and heat up to near boiling. This creates a nice thick sauce you can put on the plate and not have to worry about running everywhere. 

I really like the idea of playing with classic dishes and reinventing them, even though I guess that's cliche's still fun!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Taqueria Night!! Carne Asada with Mexican rice and a Jarritos!

So I thought when I started this blog that I'd be cooking French food mainly... I guess not. Considering Knoxville doesn't have a single taqueria (before you get mad at me, I don't have a car so if there is some hidden gem LET ME KNOW), I find that I have to put making delicious mexican food in my own hands. A taqueria translates to a taco shop in English. It's basically a restaurant where you're in and out in 25 minutes and the menu consists of a long list of meats and then you choose your eating vessel. There are tacos, sopes, tostadas, flautas, plenty of different breads and fried breads to choose from. I decided to tackle two of my favorite things in one swoop: carne asada and mexican rice. Both are actually incredibly easy and make for a pretty good dinner when you're longing for some true mexican food. By the way, there is a restaurant in Knoxville called Soccer Taco that serves americanized Mexican food along with authentic Mexican food, and while it's alright, it just isn't a taqueria for two reasons: it's filled with only white people, it serves an americanized Mexican menu and throws the authentic stuff to the back of the menu!

Carne Asada

  • One pound skirt steak
  • a lime
  • handful of cilantro
  • salt & pepper
This is basically all you need for the marination. The true flavor from carne asada from a taqueria comes from the meat, not fancy marinades. Combine all of these ingredients together and let marinade for about an hour. When it's done marinading, put under your broiler and cook for a couple of minutes on each side or until it's done. Your cooking time will vary based on your own broiler/composition of your meat.

Mexican Rice
  • One and a half cups rice
  • Two cups tomato sauce, one cup chicken stock (these are interchangable based on your ingredients in your fridge. I used two cups chicken stock and one tomato sauce)
  • Vegetables - cut up whatever you like, they put potatoes and carrots in the one at Guadalupana. I added half of a red bell pepper and half of a yellow.
  • Add some cumin if you have it
  • two tablespoons of vegetable oil
Fry the rice in the vegetable oil until all of them are slightly cooked and each grain is covered in oil. Then add all the wet ingredients, bring to a slight boil, and then turn very low. It's just cooking rice on a stove, there aren't any fancy methods for mexican rice.

There you go, this is honestly one of the easiest meals to make. It's not that fast because you have to marinade and make rice, but it's worth it. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How I Made Chicken Noodle Soup and How The Weather Won

What does a home chef do with a yummy chicken carcass? Make some soup of course! Or at least try..

Monday didn't started off well, my chicken was accepted to Foodgawker and I was going to bake some bread and cook chicken soup for dinner! I got home and checked my dough that had been rising for the last 18 hours, hoping that it would look ok. And it did. I poured it out onto my floured counter and it dripped out like wet batter. WHAT. It seems as though the flour at the bottom of my Food City brand flour were basically little rocks of flour, so that 3 cups of flour I used was basically two cups of dissolved flour and a cup of white rocks, and not the good kind (just kidding(!)).

With the bread out of the picture, I sat in the corner of my apartment with the lights off in silent, teary-eyed contemplation. Then it hit me, I have a whole chicken to boil! Sick. I stuck the chicken in a giant pot, threw in a chopped celery stalk and carrot, and filled it with water and let it boil. A couple of hours later I had chicken stock. While wasting time playing with my new camera, Olivia and I completely disregarded any signs of impending doom in the form of rain and thunder. I had my mise en place set up, chicken shredded, and herbs ready. I drained the bones and other parts and started my soup. I threw in my carrots, celery, and onion into the stock and then it happened. Rain started pouring from the sky as if God shoved his thumb up a water hose. Thunder and lightning started striking literally yards from my apartment and I'm pretty sure was right down the street. Then it really happened, the power went out. Damnit. I had a whole pot of soup on the stove with raw vegetables in it and the meat hadn't even been added yet! I was definitely not about to eat it, so I thought on my feet and made dinner with what we had left in the pantry. While not as satisfying, it hit the spot.

I had no other choice but to abandon the soup for the night and eat somewhere else. On a night where I'm cooking something, the last thing I want is to have to eat someone else's food. I want my own cooking! So the next day, after the power was on, I set out to finish it. By now it had become something else, it had been 24 hours since I started cooking it and I wanted it done, it was more than a dish, it was a task. I got everything back to a boil, added my chicken, threw everything that needed to be in there INCLUDING a box of noodles. Not the best idea I've ever had considering the pasta soaked up basically all of my stock...but whatever. I added a corn starch slurry to the soup in an effort to change it from chicken noodle soup to chicken and noodles, and it kind of worked. What I was left with was a bowl of chicken noodle soup without much of the soup part, it was still delicious though.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Poulet Roti with Thyme Mustard Vinaigrette

Every home cook enthusiast has their personal favorite chef/cook. Some prefer the people who make cooking for their children easier, like Rachel Ray, I prefer Thomas Keller. He is arguably one of the best chefs alive right now, his restaurants Per Se and the French Laundry are culinary meccas for those dining in the US and for good reason. Thomas Keller has said that he would like his last meal ever to be a roasted chicken and for good reason. My own favorite meal that I would ask my mom to make the one chance she had to cook if I came home would definitely be roasted chicken. A nice piece of oven baked chicken with mashed potatoes covered in a massive sea of gravy is heaven to me. Don't tell anyone this, but I gave this plate to Olivia and doused my plate in so much gravy it was spilling off the sides. Fancy sauces are nice now and again, but nothing beats mashed potatoes and chicken gravy. Literally nothing.

This bird was extremely easy to cook and one of the funnest meals I've made, mostly because I was able to rent an extremely nice camera from the library. Roasting a chicken is one of the most basic things you can do in a kitchen. It requires almost no work, actually the hardest part is taking the meat off of it! I followed Thomas Keller's recipe for his chicken, but added a few things. I wanted a bit more aromatic action going on so I added lemon, celery, and carrot.

Recipe for one roasted chicken aka Poulet Roti:
  • One roaster chicken - I think mine was around 6 lbs?
  • Two carrots
  • One large stalk of celery
  • Half of a lemon
  • Pinch of thyme, salt, and pepper
Instead of this being a recipe with lots of steps, it is a recipe with lots of precautions and steps you must take before cooking it. First, remove all the gross stuff from the cavity, save it for stock if you want. Stick in your carrots, celery, and lemon. Now you must truss the chicken, that is how people get their birds' legs to stay up. Most people use butcher's twine, but I used a method adapted from Anthony Bourdain. Take the flap of skin on the edge of the cavity and cut a hole where you could stick the legs through. Work the legs of the chicken through it until they're in the hole chillin nice and comfortably. (You can see how I did it in the pictures, it's not hard at all. It looks kind of like some moustache) Next you must let your chicken rest until it is ROOM TEMPERATURE or as close to ROOM TEMPERATURE as you can get it. This is how you get that nice crust on the chicken. Before you roast it, pat it completely dry until there is no moisture on the outside. This also helps the crust form. Ok, now you're ready to roast! Set your oven to 450 degrees. Pour kosher or sea salt and thyme, if you want to, on your bird. Then stick your chicken in for around an hour (that's how long mine took). Your chicken cooking time will vary based on the weight, but usually when the top looks how it did in the picture you're good. As long as it's not raw, a slightly slightly undercooked chicken is better than a dry, overcooked chicken (at least in my book).

Thyme Mustard Vinaigrette (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)
  • ¼ cups Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar (or White Wine Vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
  • 2-½ Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice (about 1/2 Lemon)
  • 5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Combine all these together and whisk until fully incorporated.

I'm definitely making this again soon, and the best part is yet to come! Check back soon to see what I do with this delicious chicken carcass.