Archive for 26 June 2011

Sunday Snack: Filipino-Style Grilled Pork Skewers

26 June 2011
Pork skewers on the grill!

Pork skewers on the grill!

This week we’re introducing one of our absolute favorite and underused ingredients: vinegar. We do a lot of fusion cooking, for lack of a better term, and one of our influences is most definitely the food of the Philippines — itself a fusion of sorts, a wild conglomeration of indigenous, Chinese, Spanish, and American cuisines. One of the hallmarks of Filipino food is the frequent and generous application of sourness in its various forms … in one of our favorite ways, by using vinegar as both a marinade and in sauces. Our platform to deliver the flavor is a great summer afternoon snack: grilled skewers of marinated cubes of pork.

For what it’s worth, we’re pairing these with a crisp sauvignon blanc, in our case, a 2010 Château Lestrille Entre-Deux-Mers. They go great with beer (San Miguel, anyone?) as well.

For more traditional Filipino dishes, we would use cider vinegar or plain old white vinegar, but to the uninitiated, the intensity may be too much, too soon, so we settle for balsamic vinegar and a seasoned rice vinegar. Both the balsamic and the rice vinegar give the pork a nice, sweet, and tangy flavor profile. You can pick up both of these in the ethnic aisle at any reasonable grocery store. If all you can find is plain rice vinegar (i.e. no sugar or salt listed in the ingredients), you can use it, but add a few pinches of sugar and salt to the marinade. Please don’t use expensive balsamic, it would be a waste — use a plain old mass market brand and you’ll be fine.

  • 2 pork chops, 4 – 6 ounces each, or pork tenderloin, or shoulder, or butt … whatever you have on hand. Size isn’t important as long as you adjust the amount of marinade accordingly.
  • some bamboo skewers, soaked in water so they don’t burn on the grill (metal skewers are fine, of course)

    Marinade (cw from top): soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, shallot, bay leaves, lemon, and balsamic.

    Marinade (cw from top): soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, shallot, bay leaves, lemon, and balsamic.

For the marinade, you will need:

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • the juice of one medium lemon
  • one shallot (substitute some minced yellow onion if you wish)
  • two cloves garlic (or more if you like), peeled and degermed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • one teaspoon (or to taste) Sambal Oleck or another hot, spicy sauce (optional)

It takes an hour or so to properly marinate the pork, longer if you want a more pungent, intense flavor. I wouldn’t go less than 30 minutes unless you plan on reducing the marinade on the stove to use as a dipping sauce. Let’s get cooking:

  1. Combine both vinegars, the soy sauce, the bay leaves, and the hot sauce (if using) in a one gallon ziplock bag.
  2. If you have a Rocket Blender or some other such thing, pulverize the shallot and garlic with the lemon juice and add to the marinade. If you don’t have something like that, just mince the shallot and garlic and add it with the lemon juice to the ziplock bag.
  3. Cut the pork into 3/4 inch cubes or, if you’re using the “S” curve skewer method, 3/4 inch wide strips. Add them to the marinade, mix well, seal the bag, and stick back in the fridge for an hour (or more if you’ve drank the kool-aid and already love vinegar).

    S-type and traditional ways to skewer the pork.

    S-type and traditional ways to skewer the pork.

  4. Decide whether you want to make rice. Rice is awesome with this dish, and can turn this snack into a lunch or light dinner. Have a glass of wine, or crack open a beer. You deserve it, you have arranged things so that you will be eating well very soon.
  5. Get your grill going when it’s time. I’m assuming you know how to do this. For charcoal, pile the coals to one side so you can do both direct and indirect heat. Your strategy will be to sear and mark the pork and then move them to the indirect side to finish. For gas grills, don’t underestimate the power of pre-heating … it’s crucial for good results. You can sear these with a propane torch, too, but your neighbors will look at you funny. Since apparently you read Humboldt Kitchen, you are probably used to this, and have thick enough skin that you couldn’t give a f … care less. If you want rice, make it now.
  6. Remove the pork from the marinade, and pat dry with paper towels. Skewer your pork.
  7. If you want to make a great but intense dipping sauce, put the marinade in a shallow pan over medium-high heat on the stove and reduce it to a consistency you like. It’s great to dip the cubes in, or to drizzle over rice.
  8. Grill your pork, taking care to rotate it so you can get some nice grill marks on each side. It won’t take more than 5 or 6 minutes, if you remember that the FDA has lowered the “safe” cooking temperature of pork to 145 degrees F. That’s right, folks, you can leave it pink and not worry about poisoning your loved ones.

    Filipino-style Grilled Pork Skewers

    Filipino-style Grilled Pork Skewers

  9. Pile the pork on a plate and let it rest a bit, then serve with the optional rice and reduced marinade. Thank me later, and welcome to the world of vinegar. You will be craving Adobong Manok in no time, and will be all the better for it.
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Quick and Easy Sunday Afternoon Snack (with Wine): Cheese Toasties

12 June 2011

This is the first in our brand spanking new Quick and Easy Sunday Afternoon Snack series. Every recipe we post with the Quick and Easy tag must possess three primary characteristics: (1) it has to be quick to make with minimal prep work; (2) it has to be easy, as in “you could do this tipsy,” to throw together; and (3) it has to provide a decent cover story for having a couple glasses of wine on a Sunday afternoon. See, if you are eating something and it absolutely begs for wine, then you are obligated to pour yourself a glass, and you definitely aren’t a lush. Just don’t make any of these for breakfast and you’ll be fine.

As an added bonus, the snacks in this series will be a good way to introduce kids, or slightly less than adventurous adults, to progressively more sophisticated tastes, without scaring the bejeezus out them in the process. The dishes themselves should look familiar and classic enough to transport them to a place where they’re comfortable enough to try something new and unexpected. This week’s edition introduces Dijon mustard, tarragon, and some non-crappy cheese to the classic open-faced toasted cheese sandwich. For four mini-sandwiches (call them Cheese Toasties if you want), you will need:

Cheese Toasties ... Dijon, tarragon, scamorza, and black pepper on Challah rolls

Cheese Toasties ... Dijon, tarragon, scamorza, and black pepper on Challah rolls

  • 2 English muffins, Challah rolls, Hawaiian or Honey Wheat rolls, or 2 slices of regular sandwich bread (sliced kitty korner)
  • butter
  • Dijon mustard
  • the leaves from a sprig of tarragon, finely minced
  • decent cheese that melts easily, enough to cover the bread, such as scamorza, mozzarella, or even Gruyère, grated or thinly sliced
  • a few pinches freshly ground pepper
  1. Slice the rolls in half, like a hamburger bun, and butter the top side. Smear some Dijon over the butter, top with the cheese, and sprinkle some tarragon over the cheese.
  2. Place in a toaster oven and toast, or under a broiler, until the cheese is melted and gooey. Top each one with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. You likely won’t need salt if you use scamorza or mozzarella, but season gently with salt if they need some.

Told  you it was easy. For wine, I’d go with something with enough acid to cut the fat in the cheese and butter and hold up to the Dijon, which, depending on the type you use, can be quite assertive. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would do nicely, as would a Chablis if you prefer Chardonnay. For reds, I would stick with the lighter side, such as an Oregon Pinot Noir. Of course, I need not mention how well good cheese goes with beer. My favorite right now is Goose Island’s Matilda, and it happens to pair with this snack wonderfully.

 

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Rosemary O’Brien, AKA Guinness Braised Short Ribs

09 June 2011

Braised (beef) short ribs take time, but they couldn’t be simpler and their versatility can’t be beat. I use them on sandwiches, in ravioli, to stuff tacos or burritos … at one of Dublin’s best restaurants (Pearl Brasserie, if you’re keeping track), they used nicely braised short rib and wild mushrooms to garnish a beautiful filet … pure decadence.

Short ribs after a trip to the oven to brown

Short ribs after a trip in the oven to brown ...

My favorite way to cook these babies is to brown the ribs in the oven while I caramelize the veggies on the stove, then combine them all in a pot with garlic, some herbs, and a good beer before letting them simmer in a low oven for a few hours.

When they’re almost, but not quite, falling off the bone, I remove the ribs from the braise and pop out the bones. You strain the liquid a couple times, leaving a dark, yeasty juice that smells and tastes absolutely amazing … it’s what monks would have drank 800 years ago if they knew how to make it. Hell, maybe they did, and I’ve just recreated what they had been doing for another 800 years before that, albeit in the dark, and without the benefit of electronically controlled temperature ovens and stainless steel pots, much less the cryovac-sealed short ribs from a family farm not 30 miles past the Indiana border. Man, those monks probably had to actually kill the damn cow, too.

Ingredients for the braise ...

Ingredients for the braise ...

Anyway, I digress. What else is new? The point is, this takes some time and patience, but it’s as simple as microwave popcorn and much more worth the effort.

At the left you’ll see my braise: 2 carrots, one stalk of celery, 2 sprigs of rosemary, an onion, Guinness, the peeled cloves of a head of garlic, and 3 bay leaves.

The mirepoix (carrots, onion, celery) is what gets browned in olive oil with a pinch of salt before meeting up with the already browned and seasoned ribs, Guinness, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaves in the pot.

 

Everything together in the pot

Everything together in the pot

 

Add water to cover, stick it in a 300 – 325 degree oven, and wait a few hours. Check the meat as mentioned above, and when it’s ready strain the veggies out, reserving the liquid, remove the meat, pop out the bones, let everything cool, put the ribs and juice into a clean container, and stick it in the fridge.

To serve, pull out some of the ribs, remove any obvious fat or gristle, and heat to serving temperature in the liquid.

Seriously, the next time you get one of those grey, chilly, rainy, nasty, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING IN LATE SPRING??? type of days … make some of these. Trust me, it’ll be brilliant.

 

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