Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chicken Curry

Mysterious spices traded amongst explorers and natives have long been the subject of legend and history. Fennel, tamarind, mustard seed, cumin, coriander, peppercorns, and many, many more varieties of spices were carried throughout the East and into far off magical worlds.  

With a mortar and pestle, the blending of these spices led to various curries. Some are wet while others are dry, and colors heightened by the various chilies continue to criss cross the world.  

The madras style yellow powder hails from the Tamil Nadu region of South India and includes an array of spices including turmeric (which gives the yellow color), fenugreek, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, tamarind, garlic, ginger, coriander, mustard seed, among others. Below is my version of a wonderful chicken curry in the Vietnamese style which includes plenty of french bread for sopping up liquid and on a bed of vermicelli.  Spicy, tart, sweet, and wonderfully rich, this is a mainstay of any Vietnamese household.  ENJOY!!!!

Ca Ri Ga- Chicken Curry
2 lbs. chicken thighs (bone in)

1 Thai Chili minced
2 tbsp curry powder
1 piece lemongrass- white part minced
2 cloves garlic minced

grind together in a mortar and pestle until it becomes a paste

2 tbsp canola oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 piece lemongrass, white parts minced
1 piece ginger, 2 inches long, minced
1 lb fingerling potatoes, quartered
1/2 lb roma tomatoes, quartered
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 can coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp sugar
1 lime
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

garnish with Vietnamese coriander, cilantro, green onions, and lime
serve over vermicelli with plenty of French bread for dipping!!

Thoroughly coat the chicken thighs with the rub.  In a heavy bottomed pot, heat up the oil, and sear the chicken on all sides until nicely browned.  Removed the thighs from the heat and add onions, carrots, lemongrass, and ginger.  Sweat until tender and aromatic.  Add the potatoes.  Coat the potatoes in the oil and seasoning, then season with the curry powder and fish sauce.  Pour in coconut milk and chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and add the chicken, tomatoes, sugar, and juice of a lime.  Cook for about 25-30 minutes until chicken is done but tender.   Adjust seasoning if necessary.  A dash of fish sauce or sugar might be the trick!  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dumplings/Hue Fried Rice

Sitting around the dinner table with friends and family leads to great stories and wonderful times. During these evenings, I enjoy making various dumplings which allows everyone can sit back and share the meal and fun while snacking on a parcel of goodness.

These are more traditional Chinese dumplings, as the Vietnamese style dumplings are usually made with tapioca starch or rice flour. Frequently, they are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.  I will be using gyoza wrappers and pan frying a batch, also.  Follow closely as we have two techniques and both are enjoyable!!  

I also included a very simple fried rice recipe which originates from the central Vietnamese region of Hue.  

Steamed/Fried Pork Dumplings
3 oz dried wood ear mushrooms
1.5 oz bean thread vermicelli
2 lbs. ground pork
3 shallots minced
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp light soy
2 tsp black pepper
1 pack gyoza wrappers
bowl of water

Dipping Sauce
Soy Sauce
Roasted Chili Paste

Red Oil Sauce
4 tbsp red chili oil
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic mashed
1 tbsp szechuan peppercorns
Mix all ingredients thoroughly

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Place 1 tbsp of filling in each wrapper, and rub the edge with water then pinch closed.  When all dumplings are filled, place them in a steamer and cook for about 10 minutes.   Mix soy and chili paste and dip dumplings.  ENJOY!!!

Alternative method- Fill wrappers with 1 tbsp of filling and fold in half.  Add 1/4 cup of canola oil in a skillet and place on medium heat.  When the oil is nice and hot, add a few dumplings and pan fry until golden brown.  Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.

Potstickers- Place a medium pan on med-high heat.  When it is hot, lightly coat with oil, add about 6-8 dumplings.  Let them brown for a minute, then add 1/2 cup of water and cover.  Steam for another 2-3 minutes.  Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.

Hue Fried Rice
3 cups cooked rice

Shrimp blend
3 tbsp dry shrimp (soak in water for about 30 minutes)
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Thai chili, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, minced

Pulse in a food processor or blend well in a mixing bowl to form a nice paste

1 tbsp sesame oil
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp water or stock
3 tbsp nuoc mam
fried shallots, herbs (basil, mint, Vietnamese coriander, cilantro)

In a hot wok or skillet, add oil and onions.  Stir fry until soft, add shrimp blend and stir fry until fragrant.  Add the rice and toss until the blend is well incorporated.  When the rice is coated with the shrimp mixture add water and nuoc mam.  Toss until it is thoroughly mixed and hot.  Serve topped with fried shallots and fresh Vietnamese herbs.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ribs/Jellyfish Salad

Let me start this by saying- I LOVE RIBS! Arguably my favorite cut of meat is the rib, preferably St. Louis or spareribs. Sticky sauce all over my fingers and face just makes me a happy guy.  My wife- not so much. Well, sometimes we just need ribs and beer!

A traditional Vietnamese dish, rib meat can be removed from the bone and eaten in lettuce wraps or with a side of greens.  I decided to throw a wrench into tradition and make a jellyfish salad (julienne jellyfish, carrots, cucumbers, and green papaya, dressing is below).  Also, I changed the cooking technique. Normally grilled or even slow cooked, I seared the ribs then finished them in a pressure cooker. In 22 minutes, they were perfect.  I reduced the sauce and had a lovely dinner.
Suon Nuong Xa- Ribs

1 rack of St. Louis pork ribs, cut in fourths

½ cup fish sauce
4 oz palm sugar
1 piece lemongrass minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Thai chili minced
pinch white pepper

1) Mix the marinade ingredients and form a nice paste. Thoroughly rub the ribs until coated and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight, if possible. About 30 minutes prior to cooking, remove from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature. 

2) Remove the ribs from the marinade, scrape off the rub (reserving any liquid and rub) and place them in another baking pan. 

3) Add a small amount of oil to a large skillet, and turn it on high heat until it begins to smoke.  Gently place a couple of sections of the ribs (meaty side down) in the pan and sear until it becomes dark brown. Be very careful because the pan is going to be hot, and watch for the garlic and lemongrass as it will burn. Spoon any dark bits into a side plate. When the ribs are the proper color, remove them to a baking sheet, and clean out the skillet. 

4) Repeat the procedure. 

5) Using a pressure cooker, in a cross-cross manner, stack the ribs and pour any extra marinade or rub over the ribs.  Cook them on high for 22 minutes and naturally release the pressure. 
6) Remove the ribs to a chopping block, and let them rest. 
7) Skim the fat off any liquid in the cooker and reduce the reserved liquid.  You should have a nice amount of liquid in the cooker, and this will form a wonderful sauce.  Cut the ribs between the bones and pour the sauce over them.  

Serve with a green papaya salad!  I made a green papaya, carrot, cucumber and jellyfish salad which is pictured below.  The dressing is a black vinaigrette (recipe below)! 

Black Vinaigrette- 1 tbsp water, 4 tbsp Chinese black vinegar, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 4 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tbsp mirin, 1 clove garlic minced, 1 Thai chili minced, 1 small piece of ginger minced. Mix all of the ingredients until the sugar dissolves.

Enjoy with a cold beer!  Brooklyn Summer Ale currently resides in my hand!

The other night I was flipping through the stations, and one of those Soft Rock infomercials was on television. My wife was in the next room, and she said, "I don't remember Air Supply sounding that good!!"  She sings along, then a few songs later after she's done swaying to "Lost in Love", I called her out for being a closeted Air Supply fan!  She's going to kill me when she sees this post!  Honey, I love you!!! Heehee!!  I got a good laugh!

A few days later I had a new Twitter follower.  So, I'm checking out my new follower's pictures and thinking, "Hmm...pretty cool.  Nice pictures.  She's really into food.  Wonder what she does?  I did a quick search and lo and behold, who do I find out it is?  None other than Ingrid Croce--the late and great Jim Croce's wife!  All those old school television mail order greatest hits came to mind, and I thought of Jim Croce, who tragically died in a plane crash when I was an infant.  Those commercials introduced me to his music, then many years ago I bought his greatest hits. So I wrote this blog while listening to his catalog. "Rapid Roy" and "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" are two fun, upbeat songs, and he pulls off a cool moustache!  Croce's Restaurant is a tribute to Jim from his wife Ingrid!  What a splendid woman!  Here's to you, Ingrid! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Grilled Ribeye

Most men enjoy giant pieces of meat!! Slabs of ribs, hanging links of sausage, hams, and huge steaks rile us up much more than a beautiful fruit basket or a nice, crisp broccoli floret. While I was walking through the grocery store, my eyes could not turn away from some beautiful steaks sitting in the case. I found some wonderful 1.75 pound ribeyes and decided to do a traditional Vietnamese marinade with a crisp green papaya salad on the side. I also dipped into my bag of goodies to make a Chinese black vinegar steak sauce which kind of tastes like A1.

Grilled Ribeye

1 Thai Chili
2 cloves garlic
1 piece ginger
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp canola oil
1 piece lemongrass

Salad- shred green papaya, carrots, green cabbage and mix with Vietnamese herbs such as basil, mint and coriander and nuoc mam

Steak Sauce
4 cloves garlic minced
1 Thai chili
1 piece ginger, 1 inch long minced
1 oz. palm sugar
3 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1/3 cup black vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup water

Bring ingredients to a simmer and allow sugar to dissolve

Marinate the beef for 2-4 hours. Take the meat out of the refrigerator about 30-45 minutes prior to cooking. This will allow the cooking temperature to remain true as the beef will be room temperature when the cooking begins. In a very hot cast iron pan or grill, cook the beef to the desired degree. Since this is a very thick piece of steak, the outside can sear very easily and keep the inside medium rare. When the juices begin to run through the top of the steak, your internal temperature should be medium (140 degrees). Allow the meat to rest for about 5-10 minutes prior to cutting.

While browsing through music selections, I decided something big, loud, and very rock and roll would be needed to stand up to my meal.  Searching high and low, I found just the choice. Dial back the stations to the days of teased hair, loud guitars, and mayhem on the Sunset Stip. Motley Crue screeched through the airwaves, and my afternoon was a success. Beginning with "Shout at the Devil", I jumped back to yesteryear and found my hair had somehow defied gravity! The sounds of "Livewire," "Dr. Feelgood," "Kickstart My Heart," and "Primal Scream" get the blood flowing and are among the great gems of the Los Angeles rock era. As I settled down and reached for my glass of wine, I finished the day mellowing out to "Without You," and arguably the best power ballad of all time-
"Home Sweet Home." Yes, the era was a good one!

A nice big red wine is a beautiful choice with this ribeye. I chose a Spanish red rioja called Marques De Caceres.  It is widely available and a wonderfully priced wine. Fruity and earthy, this red blends various grapes but is predominantly tempranillo. Try it, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lemongrass Rubbed Bone In Pork Chops

Football season has started, and my workday became longer, so I am looking for some quick dinner options. A staple in Vietnamese cooking is the grilled pork chop. This is a variation we used, but other ingredients can be added to the marinade including brown sugar (palm sugar), soy sauce (regular or dark), pickled chili peppers, or shallots.  

Also, try slicing them up for use in banh mi or in a vermicelli bowl. I made a simple tomato and cucumber salad and a side of white rice. We served some nuoc mam on the side and had a wonderful meal. I will be doing some quick dinner style recipes over the next couple of posts, so look for more great family ideas. 

Thit Heo Nuong Xa- Lemongrass Rubbed Bone In Pork Chops

4 bone in pork chops

3 cloves garlic
1 piece lemongrass
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 thai chili
½ tsp black pepper

Marinate the chops for about 2-4 hours, and on a grill or in a very hot cast iron pan, sear them until nice and crusty on the outside, then flip and finish on the other side. I cook them to medium which leaves the inside nice and pink and juicy.

Custom Plates by Gerald Haessig

Who can forget ZZ Top and the Eliminator girls? They were a staple on the MTV rotation during the 80s with their 1930s-era Ford Coupe, and every underdog who caught a glimpse of that racing-striped bad girl knew that some sexy ladies would emerge from it bringing love, luck, and good fortune to their otherwise quiet and humble existence. With Gretna Fest fast approaching, we've been peppering our music queue with the blues-based Texas rock trio. There's nothing quite like the opening guitar riff of "Sharp Dressed Man" to get you lookin' in that wardrobe wishing you had a silk suit and black tie for your next club-hopping engagement.  Enjoy the evening by going further back in time to "La Grange" and "Tush", and now pop open an icy cold beer to accompany my juicy pork chops and remembering those sexy "Legs."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Red Rice

Here is a simple dish that can be made with basic pantry items.  After researching my beef items, I noticed that this is commonly served with bo luc lac (shaking beef).  Since I wanted to make bo luc lac, I decided to add this as a side item.  I used broken jasmine rice, but you could use any rice and make it delicious.  I am a huge fan of eggs in my fried rice, so I added  a good amount of wonderfully fresh farmer's eggs.  

Red Rice
3 cups rice (day old)
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 oz. tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp nuoc mam
3 eggs, scrambled

Using a large skillet, heat up the sesame oil and add the garlic.  Fry for a minute and add the rice.  Stir fry until blended well, and add the tomato paste stirring vigorously.  When it is thoroughly blended, add the nuoc mam.  Turn the heat down a little and make a well in the middle of the pan.  Pour the eggs in the well    and scramble.  Then fold the eggs and rice together.  Check for seasoning.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lemongrass and Chili Chicken

The other night I asked An for some suggestions regarding a few chicken dishes that I was considering.  We started talking about various ideas, and eventually she said that this type of recipe was frequently used in her home as a "go-to" dinner.  Simple, flavorful, slightly exotic, and a real crowd pleaser- all the characteristics I needed!  

Remember, this is a suggested recipe and variations can be just as wonderful.  Turmeric, coconut water (in place of chicken stock), or various peppers can all change the flavor accordingly.  My version is a sweet and spicy glaze that is enhanced by the use of a homemade roasted chili paste (similar to sambal oelek).

Note- Charles Phan's Vietnamese Home Cooking has a wonderful recipe for roasted chile paste which has become a staple in our home.  I used it in this recipe, and the link to an article featuring it is listed below.  The ingredients are easily available from your local Asian market, and I use miso for the bean paste.  I add some extra red chili flakes, and the heat is perfect.   Try different peppers or more garlic!  Just enjoy it! 

Ga Xao Xa Ot- Lemongrass and Chili Chicken

2 lbs. chicken thighs, boneless, cut into 1 inch cubes 
3 tbsp fish sauce
1.5 tbsp sugar
½ piece of lemongrass, minced
1 Thai chili, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced
½ piece of lemongrass, minced
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly on a bias
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp rice wine
1 cup chicken stock
cilantro, peanuts, rice

Marinate chicken for about 2-4 hours prior to cooking.  In a very hot pan or wok, add oil, sear chicken until lightly browned.  Add garlic and lemongrass, stir fry for a minute until toasted, then add jalapeno and onion.  Cook for another 2 minutes and deglaze with wine.  Reduce and stir in chile paste.  Coat the chicken very well and pour in the chicken stock.  Reduce until it is slightly thick.  Serve in rice bowls and sprinkle with cilantro leaves and roasted peanuts.

Below photo is simmering roasted chili paste

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Beef, Green Peppercorns

From north to south, the cuisine of Vietnam changes drastically.  The north traditionally embraces the older style of simplicity and plentiful herbs.  Absent from many dishes would be the spicy Thai chili and sugar.  However, traveling south would bring change and influence from bordering countries.  In the Hanoi region, beef would be prepared in this manner but a couple of ingredients might be removed. Today we will include all of the outside influences and embrace change!  Thai chili, a good amount of green peppercorns, and the sweet and salty marinade help create a tangy style of beef which beautifully represents the Vietnamese cuisine that has been shaped throughout the past century.  France, China, Thailand, and Vietnam all contribute to this version of Steak au Poivre.  

Bo Xao Tieu Xanh- Garlic and Green Peppercorn Beef

1 ½ lb. sirloin cubed

1 tbsp water
3 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp oil
4 garlic cloves crushed
1 Thai chili
1 red onion diced
2 tbsp green peppercorns
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup green onions sliced
black pepper

Mix the ingredients for the marinade and toss with the beef.  Allow this to rest for about an hour.  In a wok or large saute pan, heat up the oil until it shimmers.  Sear beef until it is browned on all sides and still rare.  Remove the beef from the pan and add the garlic, chili, and onions.  Caramelize very well and return the beef to the pan.  Mix well and add peppercorns.  Cooking quickly, toss to coat the meat and swirl in the butter.  When the butter is fully incorporated add the green onions, turn off heat, and check for salt and pepper.  Serve with rice and cilantro leaves.

Custom Plates by Gerald Haessig

In the mid-80s, one of my favorite bands was the Psychedelic Furs.  An influential band of the early British post-punk movement, the Furs were also featured in two hit films of the 80s- Valley Girl (which starred Nicolas Cage) and Pretty In Pink (starring Molly Ringwald).  Valley Girl used the track "Love My Way", and the band contributed the title song to Pretty In Pink (although the song was much older than the movie).  So today I have been jamming to some of those classic tunes including the previously mentioned and hits such as "President Gas", "Forever Now", "Ghost In You", and "Heaven."  

My tasty beverage was a wonderful Dark and Stormy!  I used Spiced Cruzan Rum, Reed's Ginger Beer and fresh lime juice.  Fantastic, though I am not sure if it paired well with the beef, it tasted great and packs a wallop!   

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lo Soi Braised Duck and Pork

Stocks over one hundred years old?  Lo Soi means "old water" or "master sauce."  Well there are rumors that these aged stocks are true, however, I do not think I will live long enough to celebrate the centennial with my stock, and I have a feeling that my descendants might throw it away.  So I will be utilizing it over my lifetime and enjoy the pleasures of a flavorful poaching liquid.   

The Chinese, especially the Cantonese cooks, have been storing and making master stocks for centuries.  The Vietnamese have taken this technique and now consider it a mainstay in daily cuisine.  While the broth can be used in soup, it is more traditional to use it while poaching meat or poultry.  Goi Ga (Vietnamese chicken salad) is enhanced when the chicken is cooked in this manner.  

I used the pork to make steamed buns (that recipe will be another blog down the road).  In addition to the pork, the steamed buns include cilantro and a carrot/daikon mix that was pickled in a little sugar with rice wine vinegar.  A shot of sriracha and hoisin sauce livens up the buns, also.  

We cut up the duck and ate it with some rice, herbs, and salad of carrots and cabbage.  

Lo Soi Braised Pork/Duck/Chicken 
2 pieces cinnamon
6 pieces star anise
10 cloves
2 cardamom pod
2 pieces ginger (about 1 inch long)
1 tbsp five spice
4 tbsp fish sauce
4 cups soy sauce
16 ounces palm sugar

1 ½ lb. pork shoulder or
1 whole duck or
1 whole chicken

In a dry pot, toast the spices until fragrant, then add the remaining ingredients and 7 quarts of water; bring to a boil for about 15-20 minutes allowing the flavors to infuse.  Add meat and bring to a boil.  30 minutes for the pork, and 35-40 minutes for the duck and chicken.  Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool down in the liquid for about 30 minutes.  Remove the meat and strain the liquid.  Chill the stock and put into the refrigerator.  To reuse- bring the stock up to a boil and skim.  Re-season with new spices and check salt and sugar content.    More water will need to be added also.  If you do not plan on using the stock within the following week or so, freeze it.  

Custom plates by Gerald Haessig

Since braising or poaching meat tends to be a more laid back type of cooking, my choices in music slightly changed.  I decided to grace my kitchen with the sounds of Pink Floyd.  Predictable you say?  Why yes it could be, but I went with a random selection including some Syd Barrett hits such as "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play."  Interspersed with some Waters/Gilmour tracks, I really started digging the bubbles coming up from the liquid and the mellow tunes of Animals and Wish You Were Here.  The mood was setting in, and I sipped a ca phe sua da only it was laced with some Grand Marnier.  What a great combination!  I turned the meat off, let it rest, kept the music going and took a nap.  When I awoke, it was ready to go!  Ahh, I love braising meat!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pate Chaud

Baguettes, shallots, asparagus, croissants and many, many other food items now popular in Vietnam can be attributed to the French.  For slightly over 150 years, Vietnam was colonized by the French (outside of a brief period of Japanese occupation during World War II), and the influence on the local cuisine is unmistakable.  

The wonderful desserts and breads directly reflect French influence, and one of my favorite French/Vietnamese snacks is the Banh Pate So, which is from the long ago used French term of Pate Chaud meaning hot pie or hot pastry.  Pate in French now refers to meat, so this term could be misunderstood, but the Vietnamese term refers to so and chaud being pronounced identically, and banh and pate both mean pastry.  So it is an interesting backstory on the terminology of the dish.  Enough on the linguistics lesson, let's eat!

Banh Pate So- Pate Chaud- Hot Pie
 3 oz dried wood ear mushrooms
1.5 oz bean thread vermicelli
2 lbs. ground pork
3 shallots minced
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp light soy
2 tsp black pepper
puff pastry
2 eggs beaten
1 cup beer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Soak the wood ear mushroom and vermicelli in separate bowls of water for about 20 minutes until soft.  If the wood ear is in larger pieces, then thinly slice.  Cut the vermicelli into pieces about 1 inch long.  Thoroughly mix the pork, wood ear, vermicelli, shallots, fish sauce, soy and pepper.  If you overwork the meat then you will get a tougher filling, so be gentle.  Using a large biscuit cutter (about 4 inches in diameter), punch out large circles of puff pastry.  Form meatballs with the filling and place in the center of the pastry.  Brush the edges with some beer and place another piece of pastry on top.  Gently press down and use a fork to seal the edges.  Repeat until the pastry is gone.  If you have extra filling, you can use it in Vietnamese egg rolls (which will be a blog for another day!)  Brush the pastry tops with egg and bake until golden brown.

Custom plates by Gerald Haessig

In honor of arguably my favorite Vietnamese food item, I rocked to some Guns 'N Roses and Appetite for Destruction!  Possibly the best album of the 80s and maybe the best debut album of all time, in my opinion, the band was never able to reach this zenith again.  Songs like "Mr. Brownstone", "Think About You", and "Rocket Queen" stand the test of time and could blend in with today's top rock acts.  "Sweet Child 'O Mine" might be the best monster ballad in the history of MONSTER BALLADS!  An  disagrees that this song is a monster ballad...what say you?  Seriously, who doesn't immediately know Slash's guitar riff?  Too bad Axl had to break it all down, but give this album a listen and come back and discuss this with me!

My beverage of choice was a wonderful Ca Phe Sua Da.  The Vietnamese version of iced coffee is sweet and filled with a wonderful kick!  I make my own slow drip cold coffee with either French Market, CDM, Trung Nguyen, or Cafe de Paris.  Pour some condensed milk in the bottom of a glass, and top it with coffee and stir well.  Add ice and enjoy!