Monday, July 25, 2011

Pulled Pork Sandwich

To spend a month abroad means eating out every day, not knowing where your food came from, who handled it, was the cook in a good mood that day or not. A whole month abroad also means shopping in foreign bazaars, smelling unknown spices, eating tropical fruit, and drafting new recipes. The idea for this dish came to me over a cup of Indonesian coffee with Dutch pastries.

During the colonization of the 19th century, the Dutch introduced classic European pastries to Indonesia. Since then, Indonesian cooks have been applying European baking techniques to local ingredients to make guava filled danish, avocado chocolate tort, and melon cheesecake. To make this pulled pork sandwich, I used a mix of Jamaican spices for the dry rub, mango for the BBQ sauce, and Smitten Kitchen light brioche buns. This dish should be served at the next European, Caribbean and South East Asian summit :)

Pulled pork
1 2-pound cured ham steak
½ tsp of the follow dry spices: pimento, ginger, red pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, cumin, brown sugar
2 tbsp of salt
Mix the spices and salt. Rub the spice mix into the steak and refrigerate for 2 hours. Wash off the rub with cold water and pat dry the steak.

While the meat is marinating make the BBQ sauce.

BBQ sauce
4 large ripe red tomatoes
1 freshno pepper
1 medium size red onion
1 ripe yellow mango
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp kosher salt

Preheat the grill to 400F.
Cut tomatoes in a half. Cut onions into thick rings. Place tomatoes (cut side down), onions, and peppers on the grill. Grill the vegetables until they are well charred. Lower the grill temperature

Using a blender or a food processor, puree vegetables with remaining ingredients into a smooth sauce. Adjust salt and pepper.

Lower the grill to 250F. Place the steak on the grill and cook for at least 2 hours. The internal temperature of the meat should be at least170F. Remove the meat from the grill. Let it cool.

Warm the BBQ sauce in a large skillet. Shred the meat or cut it into fine pieces. Mix the meat with the sauce letting it absorb the juices for at least 10 minutes.

Slice the bun in a half and stuff it with meat. Enjoy with few pickles, fries, and a good beer.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mussels with bacon and a green bean salad

This is one of those wonderful Friday meals.  I love socializing as much as the next gal, but so often my perfect Friday is a great homemade meal, fantastic company (that will be missed for the next couple of months), maybe a good movie/documentary, maybe a little reading in bed.  Last Friday definitely fit the bill, with mussels steamed in wine with smoky bacon and a few vegetables, oven-fries make with duck fat instead of olive oil (we are all about indulgence around here), and a crisp seasonal salad.
Sometimes the best recipes are inspired by a completely different idea.  I saw a stew of fresh corn, bacon and clams that sounded a little heavy, but I really loved the idea of bacon, tomatoes, and shell fish.  Taking that inspiration to a more classic approach to steamed mussels, I added shallots and fennel, a healthy pour of wine, and lots of parsley.   I also quickly realized that Friday was right after Bastille Day, so applying a French theme to the salad made lots of sense, resulting in a mix of slender green beans, thinly sliced radishes and fennel, all dressed with a tangy vinaigrette.  My wine guys at the favorite Brooklyn Wine Exchange did not disappoint with a suggestion of round and lush La Dilettante, a 2009 Vouvray from Domaine Breton.  It managed to offer freshness and minerality to the seafood, while standing up to smoky bacon.

Steamed mussels with bacon
2 large shallots, diced finely
1/2 medium fennel head, diced finely
2-3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1/4 pound of your favorite bacon
2 pounds mussels, beards removed and scrubbed, for 2 people
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3/4 cups of white wine
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fennel fronds, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Warm a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Add the shallots, garlic, and fennel and saute until softened and starting to take on a bit of color.  Add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy.  Add the mussels, the tomato, the wine and stir well.  Cover the pot and cook, stirring or shaking every couple of minutes, for 5 - 10 minutes, until the mussels are open.  Taste the sauce in pot and season with salt and pepper, as you like.  Stir in the parsley and the fennel fronds.  Serve immediately with french fries and good bread for soaking in the juice.

Green beans, radishes, fennel salad

1 pound of slender green beans, rinsed and trimmed
1/4 pound radishes, halved and sliced thinly
1/2 medium fennel head (leftover from the mussels), sliced thinly
1 medium shallot, diced finely
1/4 cup of sherry wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of good mustard
1/3 - 1/2 cup of good olive oil, depending on how acidic you like your dressing
1/4 cup of parsley, chopped
1/4 cup of fennel fronds, chopped
Plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a medium pot of water to the boil, add plenty of salt (as if cooking pasta), and dump in the green beans.  Cook for 2 -3 minutes until a bit tender but still crisp.  Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the shallots, the vinegar, the mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Mix or shake well.
Drain the green beans in a colander and cool them quickly, either by submerging in ice water or running cold water over them.  Shake off excess water and combine, in a medium bowl with the radishes, the fennels, the herbs, a bit of salt and more pepper, and the dressing.  You may have dressing left over and it will keep fine in the fridge for a week and taste delicious on any green salad.  Serve with the mussels and feel you arteries get a good, tasty scrub.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Strawberry cake

First, I want to apologize to Liz's sister, who has been asking for this recipe for a while. My crazy travels to Indonesia, Russia, and Kazakhstan have kept me busy and away from my kitchen. A post about the food cultures in these countries is coming up soon. And now, let’s get to the cake business.

About a year ago, I discovered a 7-minute frosting that can be described as a heavy cream marshmallow sugar cloud goodness :). This frosting has a light taste, but a firm body, which makes it perfect for the strawberry cake featured in the May edition of the Saveur magazine.

The original cake recipe calls for 16 Tbsp of butter, 8 oz. of cream cheese, 1 cup of canola oil, and ... a pack of cholesterol medicine. Despite that, the Saveur recipe became the inspiration for a flavorful, yet light cake with strawberries covered in the clouds of frosting.

3 cups of cake flour, plus 2 tbsp for the pans
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of purred strawberries pressed through a chinois
2 tbsp of beet food coloring from 1 graded and squeezed beet (you can use conventional food coloring if you insist)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 9″ round cake pans.
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt.
Whisk together milk, strawberry pure, and 2 tbs. of food coloring.
Beat sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs on the medium-high speed until pale and smooth, 2–3 minutes.
In 3 additions add dry and wet ingredients to the sugar mixture beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until the batter is smooth.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops.
Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean.
Cool the cakes for15 minutes, unmold, then cool for another 15 minutes until the cakes are at the room temperature.

5 tbsp of the room temperature water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup of sugar
2 large egg whites at the room temperature
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Whisk all ingredients except the vanilla, in a large glass bowl.
Fill a wide skilled with water (1 inch) and bring the water to simmer.
Set the bowl in the skillet making sure that the water level is at least as high as the depth of the egg whites.
Beat the mixture on the low speed until it reaches 140F. Don't stop beating when the bowl is in the skillet. You can take the bowl out of the skilled to check the temperature.
Once the frosting reaches 140F, switch the mixer to high and beat the frosting for another five minutes.
Remove the bowl from the skillet and add the vanilla. Beat the frosting on high for two more minutes until it becomes room temperature.
Refridgerate for at least 15 minutes before using.

1/2 cup of hulled strawberries cut vertically into 3 pieces

Flip one cake upside down and spread 1/3 cup of the frosting on top. Arrange the strawberries in one layer and top with ¼ cup of the frosting.
Place the second layer of the cake, top side up. Frost the top and the sides with 1/2 cup of the frosting. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Cover the cake with the rest of the frosting and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Serve at the room temperature.