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!  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Salt and Pepper Squid

Eight arms, two tentacles, an ink sac and highly edible?  Sounds strange, but throughout the world squid are among the more popular seafoods.  From Japan to Italy to America, they adorn restaurant menus and street food stands everywhere.  Americans have adopted the Italian term calamari in reference to the cephalopod.  

In Vietnam, squid or muc are highly regarded and among the more popular street foods.  Sometimes stuffed with ground pork and bean thread vermicelli, we will explore one of my favorite versions.  Using five spice and some chili, we will do salt and pepper squid which can be an appetizer or entree served with steamed rice.

Muc Rang Muoi- Salt and Pepper Squid
2 lbs. squid bodies sliced across and tentacles, separate
Vegetable Oil
2 egg whites whipped until blended well
2 cups potato starch (or corn starch or rice flour)
1 cup green onion sliced
1 thai chili thinly sliced
1 medium onion thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves minced
salt and pepper blend- 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tsp sugar, ½ tsp five spice, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp ground ginger
nuoc mam

Toss the squid in the egg whites, then drain and mix with starch.  Heat oil in a deep fryer or wok, and in small batches fry squid until golden brown and remove to a plate lined with a paper towel.  Continue until all the squid is cooked.  Carefully, pour off all the oil into a heatproof container until you have about 3 tbsp remaining.  Place wok back on burner and add onion, chili and garlic.  Stir fry until very fragrant, and add cooked squid back to wok, turn off heat.  Toss gently, add salt and pepper blend and toss again.  Serve with nuoc mam.

The Echo and the Bunnymen Spotify radio station fueled this post!  "Lips Like Sugar" and "The Killing Moon" set the bar for this 80s band who acquired their name from the drum machine originally used in the studio- its name was Echo!  Not only did the station play many Echo contemporaries, but it also added some newer bands and not so new bands.  Interpol, Blur, The Strokes, and Oasis were on the list.  I am just getting into Spotify so any tips would be appreciated, but so far I enjoy the selections.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

P&J Oyster Tour

Taking a break from the normal routine, I was invited on a tour of the oyster beds in Empire, Louisiana.  P&J Oyster House is among the oldest processors in America, and they have close ties to both coastal restoration and proper seafood management.  After a scenic hour plus drive down south to Empire, we boarded an oyster boat owned by the Jurisich family and proceeded to tour the beds.  

For the oysters to grow, cement or limestone is dropped into the water which allows the oysters to attach and mature.  The boats then dredge the state owned area (oyster farmers rent the beds), and pull up their haul while tossing back immature oysters.  During colder months, the oysters develop a salty flavor due to high salinity in the water from less rainfall and lower river water mixing into the Gulf of Mexico.  The oysters swell and become plump as they hold onto fat before spawning.  The old saying is that you should only eat oysters in months with the letter "r".  This has a lot to do with the fat content and water salinity.  Both give the oyster a fresher taste and less flavor.     

Among our local seafood, I feel oysters are our most prized asset.  Gulf shrimp are amazing, but so are other shrimp from around the world, and the same goes for crabmeat.  However, our oysters are really special.  To join this crew for a morning tour was a real treat and a wonderful lesson in the day to day activity of an oyster boat. 

We shucked some freshly caught oysters and after a few hours at sea, we rode back to the camp and relaxed over a home cooked meal of fried oysters, marinated oysters, crawfish ettouffee, bread pudding and a salad.
Thanks to the Jurisich family and P&J Oyster House for bringing us on such an amazing trip.