Monday, December 12, 2011

Homemade char siu pork

I finally got around to checking out the Minneapolis-based counterpart to my local Asian market, Shuang Her, over the weekend.

It was a little disappointing to know how much better the Minneapolis store is in terms of meat selections -- there is a real butcher-type counter, rather than just a large fridge case of packaged meat.

So, I grabbed three pounds of skinless pork butt for about $9 and decided to try my hand at homemade char siu pork.

Char siu is one of those things that usually seems easier to buy, given how hard it seems to make at home.

I adapted this recipe and technique that I found online, and I'm thrilled with the result. My two favorite ways to enjoy char siu is wrapped in fluffy white dimsum buns or mixed into a sticky rice recipe from my friend Wendy (though, this was so tasty, I found myself just munching on it).

3 lbs of skinless pork butt and cut into pieces a little smaller than my fist

4 tablespoons light corn syrup (use maltose if you have it/can find it)
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) -- note, the original recipe calls for "Chinese Rose Wine" so again, if you have it on hand or can find it, go with it.
3 dashes white pepper powder
1 tsp red coloring (optional)
2 teaspoons five-spice powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Add all ingredients, except the pork, to a large bowl and whisk to combine.
Marinate the pork butt pieces with 2/3 of the char siu sauce  overnight. Reserve the rest of the marinade for brushing during cooking.
At 400 degrees, roast the meat uncovered for 20 mins, flip and roast another 15 mins.
Then, on a flat baking pan covered in foil, brush the meat with half the remaining sauce, and broil for 5 minutes until it starts to smoke, and you get a few areas starting to turn black and crisp. Flip the meat, drain the sheet pan if there is too much liquid, and broil the other side.
* if you don't live in Minnesota in December, you could also grill the meat for the final steps over a high heat grill.

The pork after first round of roasting

The pork after broiling. I used our *awesome* new toaster oven for the roasting and the broiling.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

#LetsLunch: festive sides/family sides edition

Another month, another late LetsLunch post...

Sadly, I worked nights most of this past week, so I didn't do much cooking of meals, much less than side dishes. With it being my second-to-last week on the job, I used my free mornings instead to meet up with my former team in one of our bureaus for lunch, ran errands and got a spa facial on Friday. :)

I am SUPER excited to get started at my new gig at the Cooking Club. Hopefully that means this blog will start to get a little more love (though, it's entirely possible it goes in the other direction for the first few months while I get settled).

But, I will still continue to meet up with my world-wide LetsLunch group for our virtual food date once a month. This month, we chose festive holiday sides and festive family side dishes (I think...).

I made this for a potluck last night and from the empty dish we brought home at the end of the night, it seems to have been a hit.

This is my mom's Hot Crab Dip. She usually only makes it at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and every year, I think I end up single-handedly devouring at least half of it.

Mom's recipe calls for 1 block of cream cheese to 1 can of lump crab meat. This is a double batch and it fills a medium-sized round corning-ware dish.

Season the drained crab meat with two teaspoons of prepared horseradish (or more, to taste. I use heaping teaspoons). Also preheat your oven or toaster oven to 375.

Dried onion flakes, three teaspoons. You could probably use real onion (though a bit less, they're very strong) or some thinly sliced scallions if you're feeling extra fancy. Also sprinkle some salt and pepper at this point.

Mix in two blocks of cream cheese. This works a lot better when you leave the cream cheese out for a bit, maybe near a warm oven. These were right out of the fridge, and it was a pain to mix.

Finally add milk a spoonful at a time and continue mixing. Add no more than two tablespoons of milk (but usually ends up needing much less).

Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes until warmed through and slightly browned on top. Cool before serving or risk seriously burning the crap out of your mouth. Serve with crackers or bread.


LetsLunch is a monthly virtual lunch date among food bloggers from around the world. Our fearless leader, Cheryl Tan can be found at  Want to join us? Search the #LetsLunch hashtag on Twitter and ping any one of us with your info. I'm @emmacarew

Here's a round-up of what everyone else posted this week:
Charissa‘s Coconut Date Balls at Zest Bakery
Cheryl's Auntie Jane's Potato Gratin at A Tiger In the Kitchen
Eleanor‘s Easy Festive Stir-Fry at Wok Star
Ellise‘s Lime-Chipotle Carrots at Cowgirl Chef
Felicia‘s Chinese Butterfly Cookies at Burnt-Out Baker
Grace‘s Fruitcake at HapaMama
Joe‘s Maine Homestead Holiday Dishes at Joe Yonan
Linda‘s Baked Salad at Free Range Cookies
Linda‘s Trinidadian Baked Pastelles at Spicebox Travels
Lisa‘s Potato Latkes at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Lucy‘s “Not My Mama’s” Black-Eyed Peas & Greens at A Cook And Her Books
Maria‘s Grandma Dorothy’s Deviled Eggs at Maria’s Good Things
Patrick‘s Baby Pecan Pies at Patrick G. Lee
Rebecca‘s Grandmother Martha’s Potato Kugel at Grongar Blog
Steff‘s Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Crumble at The Kitchen Trials
Victor‘s Roasted Parsnips, Carrots & Delicata Squash Tossed With Sauteed Mustard Greens at The Taste of Oregon

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011, version 2.0 (Roasted, braised turkey)

Thanksgiving this year was a quiet affair. Having used up most of my vacation time for our wedding and honeymoon, I volunteered to work a half day at the paper, then we went to a good friend's house for a potluck.

The potluck was wonderful -- my first Thanksgiving with egg rolls. I think I may never go back!

But, that left us in the curious position of not having any Thanksgiving leftovers, except for a few slices of pie.

So, Friday night, we hit up Cub Foods and bought the smallest non-frozen turkey we could find (12 pounds) and a few other provisions for Thanksgiving 2.0.

I spent most of Saturday cooking our very first married Thanksgiving. Jake also points out that Michigan, his favorite college football team had a miraculous win on our wedding day, then had another big win on the day of our first married Thanksgiving. This appears to reaffirm that our marriage was, indeed, the right choice.

Having never actually roasted a turkey before, I did some internet research. I decided to follow Michael Ruhlman's Roast/Braise method, as the idea of keeping the turkey really moist seemed to be the biggest challenge.  Basically, you stuff the turkey with all the good stuff: onions, herbs, citrus, then fill your pan with stock making goodies: more herbs, more onion, some carrots, celery (I used fennel, it was grand), a little tomato paste, a little alcohol (I used half a bottle of Riesling, but beer, whiskey, probably anything would do), then add water until the dark meat is resting in it.

When the white meat is cooked to 160 at the fattest part, you remove the turkey (this is harder than it sounds...), slice off the dark meat, and put the dark meat back into the braising liquid for a bit, while you cover the white meat to keep it juicy, tender and awesome.

So, aside from probably using too much tomato paste (so the broth was redder than I would have liked), I think it turned out really well.

In Carey family tradition, I removed and devoured the turkey neck.

Here's the turkey after the initial "roast" stage. This was the maiden voyage for the roasting pan we received from our wedding, as well as the baster (which was metal, so hard to see how much liquid you've pulled into it) and the meat thermometer. What Ruhlman's recipe doesn't mention is that one half of the turkey may cook faster than the other, so on one of your basting times, pull the turkey out, get the temp on each breast, and rotate accordingly. He also fails to account for the 12 lb turkey and 2/3 a roasting pan full of liquid being REALLY FREAKING HEAVY. Use adult supervision accordingly for the lifting, turning, whatever.When the cooler breast has reached 160, that's when I declared it done.

So, while the turkey was roasting, then the dark meat braising (seriously, the meat on this thing was so tender, and stayed so moist even through the week of leftovers), I got to work on the other aspects: mashed red potatoes with roasted shallots, Wendy's pecan sweet potatoes, and stuffing.

Although I have grown to appreciate real, gourmet stuffing, I still love the Pepperidge Farm stuff my mom used to make from the bag. We made two bags (yes, for two people... deal with it). This year I branched out a little and crumbled in a little cooked "all natural" sausage (about 1 1/2 packages for the two bags), but truly, that's as fancy as I'll get.

Here's the finished plate: Clockwise from top left: mashed red, turkey, stuffing, mashed sweet with pecans, and bread (which I picked up from Diamond City Bread in Elk River, after reading a colleague's profile of the place)

At some point, I also decided on a whim to use up the rest of my buttery pie dough and make another pie. I had already brought two pecan pies to the potluck (one with a homemade crust, one with a store-bought crust, which happened during my frustrating with my sticky homemade crust), and two chocolate pudding pies (again, tribute to my mother. They're simple, but she made them, and I love them). This was my fifth and final Thanksgiving 2011 pie: and yes, I'm still using that damn Pioneer Woman recipe from last year

So, all in all, I would call Thanksgiving 2.0 a success. You can see Jake smiling as he piles up his plate here. Happy husband, happy wife, happy Thanksgiving. :)

Fancy-pants grilled cheese

So, I have some wonderful news to share! I recently accepted a job as the digital editor for a magazine called The Cooking Club. I am definitely sad to leave my job at the Strib but this is an amazing opportunity for me to combine my passions: digital journalism and cooking. Can't wait to get started, more details to come.

Now on to the food... 
Jake and I have been meaning to get to our neighborhood bar for their fancy grilled cheese and veggies sandwiches for a while now. The place is a little pricey, and we tend to frequent it for brunch, so a few weeks ago, we decided to have date night in and try to figure them out ourselves.

I started by slicing up a red bell pepper, drizzling with a 1/2 tsp olive oil and some salt in one giant ramekin and slicing a red onion with a little red wine vinegar in the other. I roasted at 450 for about 30 minutes while I got the other stuff ready. I also broiled for 3-5 minutes to finish them.

We put our double cast irons to work to toast the buns we bought. I brushed them with truffle oil on each side before grilling.

We used four kinds of cheese: Brie (spread on the bottom), smoked gouda, mozzarella, and fontina. I also sauteed some portobello mushrooms in a little red wine and black pepper. We grilled them with just the cheese, covered for a few minutes to get the cheese melting, then piled on the toppings.

The finished product. I used the heated top cast iron again to press down and heat the sandwiches from both sides.  We plated over baby arugula (which we both ended up stuffing into the sandwiches anyway) and a drizzle of truffle oil and salt.