Sunday, November 27, 2016

Shrimp Scampi with Pasta

This classic and simple shrimp dish can be served as is or with bread or pasta. I myself like serving it with pasta which, IMHO, is the perfect complement to that awesome sauce of butter, olive oil, garlic and white wine.

1 lb. spaghetti or linguine

2 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 tbsp. olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tbsp.)
4 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley

1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions; drain & set aside.

2. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the minced garlic and saute for 10-20 seconds (do not brown); stir in the wine and cook another 10-20 seconds.

4. Add the shrimp and toss briefly; season with salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes or until the shrimp is just cooked through. Stir in the lemon juice.

5. Add the reserved pasta and toss gently to combine. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped parsley.

 Minced garlic, chopped parsley and lemon.

 Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet; add the garlic and saute for 10-20 seconds (do not brown); add the wine and cook briefly, another 10-20 seconds. 

 Add the shrimp and seasonings; toss and cook 1-2 minutes or until the shrimp is just cooked through; stir in the lemon juice.

 Add the cooked pasta and chopped parsley and stir to combine. 

Home-Cured Corned Beef

Who knew that home-cured corned beef could be so easy to make and so much more delicious than the store-bought variety? I certainly didn't, but shouldn't have been surprised because most things homemade are always mo betta! I decided to take the challenge after I tried to buy corned beef at two of our local supermarkets recently, and neither one had any on hand because, I was told, it wasn't THAT time of year (i.e., St. Patrick's Day). So what's a girl does when craving corned beef when it's out of season? Well, make it yourself! After perusing many recipes, I came up with a blend of pickling spices that floated my boat and added it, along with a little chopped fresh garlic, to a brine for the beef brisket. Five days later, the beef was corned and ready to be cooked. Deeeelish!

2 tbsp. whole black peppercorn
2 tbsp. yellow mustard seed
2 tbsp. coriander seed
1 tbsp. allspice berries
1 tsp. celery seed
10 whole cloves
1 tbsp. ground mace
1 tsp. dill weed
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 small 3" cinnamon stick, broken into 2-3 pieces
2 bay leaves, crumbled

1 gallon of water
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
4 tsp. pink salt/sodium nitrite - optional (this is what gives the corned beef its pinkish hue)

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Two 5-lb. flat cut briskets

2 medium carrots, cut into 2" dice
1 small onion, cut into 2" pieces
2 stalks of celery, cut into 2" pieces
1 tbsp. pickling spice

1. Combine all the pickling spices together in a small bowl. Pour into a spice jar or glass container; cover tightly and set aside. 

2. For the brine: combine 1 gallon of water with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 1/2 cups kosher salt, 4 tbsp. of pickling spice, minced garlic, and 4 tsp. of the pink salt. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

3. Place the briskets into a plastic container and pour enough of the brine to cover them. Place a small plate over the briskets to keep them submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 5 days. 

4. After 5 days, the beef briskets are corned and ready to be cooked. 

5. To cook: place the briskets into a large pot and cover with water. Add 1 tbsp. of the pickling spice, 2 medium carrots, 1 small onion, and 2 stalks of celery (all cut into 2" pieces) to the water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the beef is super tender. Slice and serve with prepared horseradish or your fav mustard on the side. 

 For the pickling spices: celery seed, ground ginger, yellow mustard seed, whole cloves, black peppercorns, dill weed, cinnamon stick, whole coriander, and allspice.

 For the brine: combine 1 gallon of water with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 1/2 cups kosher salt, 4 tbsp. of pickling spice, minced garlic, and 4 tsp. of the pink salt. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

 Flat-cut beef brisket.

 Place the briskets into a plastic container and cover with the brine; weight the briskets down with a small plate to keep them submerged. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 5 days.

 5 days later, voila!

 Place the brisket into a large pot and cover with water. Add 1 tbsp. of pickling spice.

 Add carrots, onion, and celery to the pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the beef is really tender. 

Serve the corned beef with prepared horseradish and/or mustard, with potatoes, carrots, cabbage a la a New England boiled dinner, or whatever else your heart desires!

Persimmons Wrapped in Prosciutto

Persimmons are very seasonal, usually only available here in SoCal from mid fall to winter. They're also expensive, so it totally pays to have your own tree. We have an 8-year old semi-dwarf Fuyu Persimmon growing in the herb garden that reliably produces fruit every year and ready for harvest by late November. They are deliciously sweet with a crisp-tender texture that lends itself well to a salad preparation or a pairing with a salty dry-cured ham like prosciutto. So if you have a bunch of persimmons on hand, by all means give this one a try - makes for a no-brainer, deliciously fresh appetizer!

Fresh Fuyu persimmons*
Prosciutto, Serrano or other thinly sliced dry-cured ham

1. Peel the skin off of the persimmons with a sharp paring knife. Remove the stem and core, and cut into wedges (think of cutting it into wedges like you would a tomato).

2. Wrap each wedge with a strip of prosciutto and arrange on a plate. Yup, that's all there is to it! Bon appetit! 

*There are two types of commercially available persimmons: Fuyu (tomato-shaped and can be eaten while firm) and Hachiya (larger and more elongated in shape than Fuyus, they can only be eaten when totally ripe and soft in texture - otherwise they are incredibly astringent).

Friday, November 25, 2016

Asian-Style Soy-Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs with Scallions & Fermented Black Beans

We bought a large package of boneless beef short ribs at Costco a few weeks ago and I wanted to do something different other than the traditional wine-braised version that I normally do. I decided to go Asian and took inspiration from the Short Ribs of Beef with Scallions recipe in THE CHINESE COOKBOOK (1972) by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee and the Braised Short Ribs with Black Bean Sauce recipe in THE BEST INTERNATIONAL RECIPE (Cook's Illustrated-America's Test Kitchen). This is what I came up with and it's one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day. Great served with steamed white rice to soak up all that saucy goodness.

6 tbsp. fermented black beans
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 lbs. boneless beef short ribs, cut into 1" pieces, rinsed & patted dry
6 scallions, cut into 1" sections
1 medium onion, quartered
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into large dice
4 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups water
2 tbsp. Shaohsing or rice wine
4 tbsp. dark soy sauce
2 tbsp. regular soy sauce
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt

Cornstarch slurry: 1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 3 tbsp. water

Chopped fresh scallions and cilantro, for garnish

1. Place the fermented black beans in a small bowl, cover with warm water and soak for 20 minutes to remove some of the salt. Drain the water & set aside.

2. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a Dutch oven or heavy (e.g., enameled cast iron) pan. Saute the short ribs in batches until browned. Remove the short ribs to a platter and set aside.

3. In the same pan, add the scallions, onion, and garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.

4. Return the short ribs back to the pan, toss to combine and add the rinsed fermented black beans, Shaohsing wine, dark & regular soy sauces, sugar, black pepper, and kosher salt. Add 6 cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the beef is very tender.

5. Just before serving, bring the braise up to a boil and add the cornstarch slurry, stirring constantly until slightly thickened.

6. Serve with steamed white rice, garnished with chopped fresh scallion & cilantro.

 3 lbs. boneless beef short ribs.

 Regular soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Shaohsing wine, sugar, black pepper, black beans (soaked in water), minced garlic, chopped scallions and diced carrots.

 Cut the beef into large dice.

 4 cloves garlic, minced and 1 onion, quartered.

 Brown the beef in 2 tbsp. oil.

 Remove the browned beef to a plate and set aside.

 In the same pan, saute the onion, garlic, carrots and scallions.

 Add the beef back to the pan, along with the rinsed fermented black beans, regular and dark soy sauces, sugar, black pepper, kosher salt, and Shaohsing wine.

 Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the beef is very tender.

 Before serving, bring the stew back up to a boil and stir in the cornstarch slurry; boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened. 

Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with chopped cilantro and scallion.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ahi Tuna Wonton Tacos with Wasabi Cream & Sriracha

This is my take on the popular Asian-fusion appetizer of wonton "tacos" with ahi tuna filling. For the filling, I use my version of Hawiian-style ahi tuna poke and top each with a little diced cucumber and avocado. A sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds on top, along with some Sriracha sauce and wasabi cream on the side, round out this dish. The final, refreshing touch is to wrap each wonton in a butter lettuce leaf - doesn't get better than that!

Ahi Tuna Poke:
2 lbs. sushi grade ahi tuna, cut into 1/2" cubes
2-3 scallions, chopped
2 tbsp. minced sweet or red onion
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. soy paste
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. white sesame seeds

1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/2" dice
2-3 tsp. lemon juice

1 English or hothouse cucumber, cut into 1/2" dice

1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated, rinsed, and patted dry

Wasabi Cream:
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp. wasabi paste

Sriracha Hot Sauce

White & black sesame seeds, for garnish

1/2 pkg wonton skins (round or square)

Oil for frying

1. Combine all the ahi tuna poke ingredients together in a bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Of course it's best to eat the poke asap, but if you want to make ahead, it'll keep fine overnight in the frig.

2. Place the diced avocado into a small container/bowl; combine gently with lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Place the diced cucumber into a small bowl/container; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

4. Make the wonton tacos: pour oil into a medium pot or deep fryer to about 4" in depth. Heat over medium high heat until temperature is about 350F. Add a few wonton skins at a time (don't overcrowd) and cook for a few seconds on each side - these guys brown VERY quickly. I use either tongs or a taco molder gadget to shape the wontons while they're frying (see photos below). Remove at the fried wontons to a paper towel-lined plate to let drain. Repeat until you have about 20 wontons; let cool to room temperature.

5. Assemble the tacos: Fill each wonton taco with about 1 tbsp. of the ahi poke. Top each with a few of the diced cucumber and avocado; sprinkle with a few black and white sesame seeds. Wrap each taco on the outside with a butter lettuce leaf and serve with wasabi cream and Sriracha on the side or drizzled onto the serving platter. Serve immediately as these don't keep well (the filled wonton tacos will lose their crunch if made too far in advance).

Hothouse cucumber, cut into small dice.

Minced onion, cilantro & scallions.

Diced avocados sprinkled with lemon juice (to keep them from turning brown), Sriracha chili sauce, and wasabi cream.

Wonton wrappers.

Deep fry the wonton wrappers for a few seconds on each side (they cook very quickly).

Drain the fried wontons on paper towels.

Ahi tuna steaks.

Cut the tuna into 1/2" cubes.

Toss lightly with seasoning ingredients.

Fill each fried wonton with a generous tablespoon of the ahi tuna poke, then top with a little diced cucumber and avocado. Serve each wonton taco on a butter lettuce leaf, sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds on top, and serve with Sriracha and wasabi cream on the side. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Smoked Spice-Rubbed Pork Belly

A couple years ago, I was watching an episode of Unique Eats on The Cooking Channel and saw a feature of a BBQ joint in Brooklyn called 'Fette Sau' or 'Fat Pig' in German. The chef made a spice-rubbed pork belly that looked really out of this world. Since I'd only eaten and cooked pork belly the Chinese way (soy-braised), I was really intrigued by this Western preparation. If you've never had pork belly before, fear not - it's not a form of offal, i.e., innards, but rather an unctuous cut of pork with the perfect ratio of meat to fat. It's also where bacon comes from. I came up with a spice rub that incorporated most of the ingredients that were used at the restaurant, guesstimating on the proportions. We made this recipe once before using a Weber Smokey Mountain BBQ Smoker. The pork bellies were nicely flavored but on the tough side, maybe because they were precut into strips - a whole slab might have maintained moisture better, but mostly because we had problems maintaining an even low and slow temperature in the smoker. Fast forward a couple years later and now we have an electric Charbroil smoker, which is the perfect appliance for novices like us. For this preparation, we smoked the pork bellies for 5 hours at 225F with hickory wood chips. The rind, which serves the purpose of keeping the underlying meat moist, becomes very tough after the smoking period, so you have to remove it before serving. You can eat these smoked pork bellies as is, or serve them in sliders, sandwiches, tortillas. 

Smoked pork belly sandwich with pico de gallo, pickled red onion, chipotle crema, and cilantro.

Smoked pork belly burrito with pickled red onion, pico de gallo, chipotle crema, & cilantro.

Spice Rub:
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne
2 tbsp. granulated garlic
2 tbsp. onion powder or dried minced onion
1 tsp. espresso powder

5 lbs. pork belly, each cut into 2" thick slices


1. Mix all the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. 

2. Place the pork bellies in a single layer into a shallow casserole or baking dish. Score the top of the pork rinds, then rub each generously on all sides with the spice rub. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours before smoking. If you have leftover spice rub, place in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a couple weeks for use in other preparations (good on ribs, salmon, chicken, etc.).

3. Preheat your electric smoker to 225F. Add hickory or apple wood chips to the wood chip box; fill the water box to the fill line and place in your smoker according to manufacturer's instructions. 

4. Place the pork bellies onto a foil-lined baking sheet; place onto a rack (middle position) in the smoker, with a drip pan placed on another rack underneath. Smoke for approximately 5 hours or until the internal temperature of the pork is 195F.

5. Remove the pork bellies from the smoker, cover loosely with foil, and let rest 15 minutes. Once the pork is cool enough to handle, remove the rinds, which will be very tough after cooking. Slice or dice the pork bellies for use in sliders, sandwiches, tacos, burritos, etc. 

Great Additions to Pork Belly Sandwiches, Sliders, Tacos, Burritos (mix and match to your taste):

Brioche, Hawaiian or your fav buns
Tortillas (I use flour instead of corn because they are more pliable)

Pickled red onions

Pickled jalapeños 
Caramelized jalapeños
Caramelized onions
Shredded lettuce or cabbage
Chopped fresh cilantro
Chipotle crema
Mango salsa
Pico de gallo
Diced avocados
Tomato slices
Jalapeno or Habanero Jelly

Rub all sides of the pork belly slices with the spice rub.

Smoke for about 5 hours at 225F or until the internal temperature reaches 195F.

Remove the pork bellies, cover loosely with foil, and let rest 15 minutes.

Remove the rind from the pork bellies and cut them into large dice.

Use them to make sliders or sandwiches...

Or tacos...

Or burritos...and much, much more