Archive for the ‘garlic’ Category

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.
Share

Mojo Rojo

15 February 2011

OK, I owe you a Sunday Green Board. This will have to do for now. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Today’s treat was inspired by two things: a random memory of an old friend now living in Lanzarote (Hiya Joe!!!) and the opportunity for cheap, cheap airfare to Barcelona. It’s a wonderfully piquant sauce / condiment called either mojo picon or mojo rojo — essentially a vinaigrette flavored with garlic and chile peppers, similar in nature to a romesco sauce.

Whether you call it picon or rojo depends upon on the heat of the peppers you use … more heat means picon, less means rojo. I like to use dried pasilla chiles; they’re spicy, but not overwhelming, and their pleasant smokiness underscores the paprika, so mine’s a mojo rojo. If I used something with more heat, I’d call it mojo picon. It doesn’t really matter; there are dozens and dozens of extremely similar sauces out there, and in the end, what you call it is an order of magnitude less important than how it tastes.

We use the mojo rojo on boiled potatoes here (papas arrugadas to be precise), but it’s awesome on random veggies and meats, and absolutely stunning on scrambled eggs. Use it anywhere that needs a punch of spice without the overwhelming heat of a hot sauce. For something slightly more sophisticated, substitute it for Frank’s RedHot when you make Buffalo wings.

Mojo Rojo

Mojo Rojo on papas arrugadas with seared flank steak ... what a crappy picture, eh?

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled (and degermed if needed)
  • 3 pasilla chiles, rehydrated, stems removed, or any other dried chile peppers you may like
  • 1 teaspoon good paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar, the best you can get
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, the best you can get, again
  1. Boil some water in a kettle or pot, remove from heat, and add the chile peppers. Cover with a pot or bowl to keep them submerged, and steep for 45 minutes or more to rehydrate them. After they’ve steeped, cut out the stems and scrape out most of the seeds.
  2. Combine everything but the olive oil into a food processor or blender and pulverize into a paste. If you’re using a food processor, drizzle in the oil while pulsing to form an emulsion, as you would with a mayonnaise or vinaigrette. If using a blender, add the oil and emulsify.
  3. Taste, adjust the salt content, and savor.

Refrigerate the unused portion, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Share

Italian Wontons (Part One)

21 January 2011

just made Italian wontonsGot a hankering for ravioli but don’t want to bust out the Kitchen Aid and rolling pin? Want some Crab Rangoon but don’t feel like shelling out $12 plus tip to get the greasy, unhealthy, trans fat soaked but oh-so-tasty ones delivered? The solution is simple, and one of the greatest time savers you should never be caught without: frozen wonton skins.

To show you how nice having a stack of these in your freezer or fridge can be, the next post will contain a nice, easy, recipe for Italian Wontons — roasted butternut squash-filled wonton skins served in a basic marinara.

But first, there are two staples you will want to have prepped and ready to go. After you make these once, you’ll find them so useful you’ll always want them around, so making the wontons will be a cinch.

  • 1 roasted butternut squash

This couldn’t be easier to make, but you have to do it ahead of time, preferably the day before, so it has time to chill. There are tons of uses for this, so roast one on Sunday and keep it in the fridge for the rest of the week. For the basic recipe you will need a medium-sized butternut squash, olive oil, kosher or sea salt, and some freshly ground pepper:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Clean the squash … not scrub, but just enough to clear away any obvious dirt or gunk (you know, the adhesive from the sticker?).
  3. Slice it in half lengthwise, and use a large spoon to remove the seeds.
  4. Paint the flesh of each half with a thin layer of olive oil (don’t be a wuss, use your fingers). Season both sides to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, being generous with each.
  5. Place on a baking sheet (or directly on the rack), flesh side up, and roast  in the preheated oven for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the flesh is soft and mushy — not falling apart, but tender enough to mash with a fork if you wanted.
  6. Remove from the oven … carefully … and let cool to room temperature, then place in a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.

This stuff is ready to eat after step 5 … scoop some of the flesh out, mash it, and serve it topped with butter and chives like you would mashed potatoes. You can also dice the flesh, stick it in a blender, add some minced ginger, chicken stock, and the flesh of one or two peeled and cored Granny Smith apples. Blend it, reheat in a stock pot, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve drizzled with some yogurt or cream, or crumbles of goat cheese, and splash with a few dots of sherry vinegar. Boom, you got soup. If you know how to make grilled cheese, you can avoid Panera all week long and keep some extra cash in your pocket.

The next basic item you will need is:

  • a basic red / marinara / pomodoro / tomato sauce

Yes, you can use the stuff in a can or jar if you want, so long as you like the taste of it, or can doctor it enough so that you like the taste. Otherwise, you can make your basic red sauce using canned tomatoes, some garlic cloves, kosher or sea salt, GOOD olive oil, and some patience:

  1. Buy a 28 ounce can of whole peeled ITALIAN tomatoes. The better quality you buy, the better the sauce will be. San Marzano are the standard, but any good Italian will work. Buy a few different varieties and find one you like … if they’re from California, so be it, we’re no hard guys, we just know what we like. If it’s tomato season, use fresh. Wait until the summer and you’ll see our series on making red sauce using fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market.
  2. Peel a few cloves of garlic. How many depends on how much you like garlic, but since this is a basic red sauce, you want it to taste of tomatoes, with just a hint of garlic, so 3 or 4 is probably enough. Give each clove a whack with your chef’s knife, and make sure you remove the germ — the greenish sprout in the center that gets bitter and gives you heartburn. After the whack, you should be able to scape the end up with your fingernail and pull it out.
  3. Gently (medium low) heat around 1/4 cup of GOOD olive oil in a sauce pan. The oil should cover the bottom of the pan and come up the side a bit; if it doesn’t, you’re using too big a pan. When hot (if the oils smokes, dump it, clean the pan, and start over with less heat), add the garlic and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until golden in color. If you burn the garlic, dump the oil and garlic, clean the pan, and start over. Burnt garlic is nasty.
  4. While the garlic is cooking, open the tomatoes and empty them into a bowl. Crush them with your (suitably clean) hands. Throw out any stems or pale green hard bits of tomato, and any whole herbs or leaves they may have been packaged with.
  5. When the garlic is golden, CAREFULLY pour the tomatoes (and juices) into the sauce pan, add two or three pinches of salt, and give it a good stir. Remember there is HOT oil in the pan that likes to splash up and burn things … things like your skin.
  6. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook uncovered for three hours or so, stirring every half hour. It’s done when it reduces enough to appear “saucy.” How long you need to cook it depends on the pot, the heat, and a host of environmental factors, so give yourself a break and don’t worry about anything but burning it.

When the mixture appears “saucy,” taste it and add some salt if you think it needs some. If it tastes like a basic red sauce should taste, and not like a warmed up can of smashed up tomatoes, then it’s done. If it doesn’t taste like sauce, let it simmer some more. Mine usually reduces by 1/3 to 1/2 before I feel like it’s “done.”

By the way, this recipe scales very well, and the way I see it, if you’re going to take the time to stir a pot for at least a few hours, you might as well make a ton of the stuff (just multiply the amount of garlic, olive oil, and pinches of salt by the number of cans of tomatoes you have on hand) and freeze what you aren’t going to use within a few days. Simply let the sauce cool for a couple hours, and stick it in the fridge. The next day, repackage it in useful quantities (1 or 2 cups) into freezer bags or containers and stash them in the freezer for a lazy day.

Note: g likes to add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, chili powder, or, when he’s feeling fancy, Piment d’Espelette, to the sauce. Add it after the garlic has turned golden, give it a quick stir, and then add the tomatoes.

OK, so that’s the basics. The next post will cover the recipe for making the Italian Wontons.

Share