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 now...it'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.