Monday, April 12, 2021

How to Congee - Cooked Rice Repurposes into a Delicious Feast

Comfort food is many things to different people. 

Freshly made soup with croutons

Chicken and dumplings with vegetables

Homemade pasta with roasted tomato sauce

A bone-in steak seared medium-rare in a carbon steel pan

A baked potato with sour cream and scallions

An egg salad sandwich flavored with dill on crustless Japanese white bread

And, my favorite, congee.

Necessity led to a favorite dish

I couldn't sleep one night. Too much stress, too much going on in the world to sleep through the night. I woke up at 4 am and couldn't go back to sleep. Better to get out of bed so I wouldn't disturb my wife. Walking into the kitchen, I opened the refrigerator, hoping to find something already made or a dish that would be easy to prepare. 

I needed comfort food.

In the dull light, I saw there wasn't much. Wednesday was market day. This was Monday.

Searching in the refrigerator, I found a container of homemade vegetable stock I had made the day before, Japanese white rice from a take-out dinner two nights ago, a carrot, a shallot, an ear of corn, fresh shiitake mushrooms, green beans and a small piece of daikon. 

Not a treasure-trove, but those ingredients sparked an idea that led to my enjoying a deliciously comforting meal just as the sun was coming up.

Cooked rice. A liquid. Sautéed vegetables. That's all I needed to make congee.

What is congee?

Visit most Chinese restaurants and you'll find a section of the menu labeled "Congee." The basic components are raw white rice and a liquid. The rice is simmered for up to an hour in the liquid, which can be water or stock made from seafood, poultry, beef or pork. 

The result is a porridge-like bowl of creamy rice. Depending on the restaurant, the congee can be flavored with bits of protein or vegetables and topped with fresh scallions, fried shallots and a drizzle of hot oil. 

Inspired by traditional congee, my version is very different

I use cooked rice added at the very end so my "congee" isn't creamy. Depending on my mood, I may add a great deal of vegetables and a protein and a smaller amount of rice. Purists might say I am making soup with rice, but in my telling of the tale, I add a lot more rice than you would find in 'soup with rice.'

With my approach, the results are infinitely variable. The only constants are cooked rice and a liquid. 

Another variable is the ratio of broth to rice. For dry, cook the rice in the soup until most of the liquid is gone. For wet, cook the rice very briefly in the soup. Sometimes I like the congee with practically no broth. On a cold morning, lots of soup with the rice is the way to go. 

The rice

You can make congee out of any kind of cooked rice. 

Most of the time, I use Japanese short grained white rice or Chinese long grained rice. But, Thai brown rice, Middle Eastern basmati rice or Vietnamese broken white rice would also work.  I have even used basmati rice flavored with almonds and orange peel from my favorite Armenian restaurant, Adana (6918 San Fernando Road, Glendale 91201, 818/843-6237). 

Each rice creates a different result. The cooking time, amount of liquid used and the end result will change depending on the rice. 

Cooking tip: if the cooked rice you find in the back of the refrigerator has dried out, no worries. Cooking the rice in a liquid will reconstitute the grains. If you see mold, toss the rice. 

Generally speaking, one cup of cooked rice will serve one person. The ratio of rice to proteins and vegetables is a matter of personal taste. 

The stock

I always use homemade stock. To make vegetable stock, during the week I freeze vegetable peelings. On the weekend, I add them to a pot of boiling water, simmer 60 minutes, strain and, voila, homemade vegetable stock. Whenever we make a chicken dish, I save the bones, fat and skin, cover with water, simmer 60 minutes, strain and cool. The resulting vegetable or chicken stock can be refrigerated or frozen in an air tight container.

In a pinch, sautéing a goodly amount of vegetables and adding water will pull out flavors from the vegetables. That creates enough homemade stock for your congee. 

Homemade stock will produce the healthiest, freshest flavors. Store bought stock whether fresh in the deli department, packaged in cans or boxes or even dehydrated can be used, but the salt content tends to be high and the quality unpredictable. 

I have used all kinds of broth. Sometimes I'll use the miso soup I brought home from a Japanese restaurant or I'll make stock by boiling left-over Thai bbq honey pork ribs or turkey stock from a Thanksgiving feast or chicken stock made with the bones from a roast chicken. 

Making your own stock means you control the quality and flavor, so I recommend keeping 16 and 8 ounce containers of frozen stock in the freezer so you are always prepared to make a delicious savory meal at a moment's notice.

And, as I mentioned above, in a pinch, use water added to the sautéed vegetables to create a spur of the moment stock.

Vegetables and proteins

Use fresh vegetables or left-overs. Roasted vegetables from last night's dinner or bok choy and broccoli from Chinese take-out can be chopped into bite sized pieces and added to the congee. My go-to base ingredients are fresh, chopped onions, carrots, kale, shiitake mushrooms, green beans, daikon, broccoli stems or crowns and Savoy cabbage leaves, if I have them and corn kernels when in season.

For a protein, tofu, chicken, pork, fish and shellfish are good to add. Use cooked or raw proteins, knowing that the cooking times will be different for each. Cooked proteins only need to be reheated. Raw proteins can take longer, although fish and shellfish cook very quickly. Tofu can be added along with the stock.

Vegan or omnivore 

Use ingredients you like. Stick with plant-based and make a best-ever vegan congee with homemade vegetable stock, rice of your choice and all the vegetables that make you happy. 

If you're an omnivore, just about any animal protein or seafood works well. Use any protein you enjoy. Cooked meats with a lot of flavor, like bbq brisket or Vietnamese bbq pork or roasted dark chicken meat will add layers of flavor. Raw pieces of fish filets, crab, shrimp or lobster, add flavor to the broth as they cook. 

Congee with Scallions and BBQ Pork

As with all cooking, if you use quality ingredients, the resulting dish will taste better and be healthier.

Every element added to the congee should build to a final, layered conclusion. You can keep the result simple, like a piano recital, emphasizing the "quiet" of the stock and the rice or jazz it up with a composition with rhythms of hot, sour, sweet and savory.

I often add bbq pork from my frequent trips to Little Saigon south of LAX. From my home, the drive takes under an hour, barely enough time to catch up on The Daily, one of my favorite podcasts. On the return trip, I listen to the news and happily eat a Bánh mi from Bánh Mì Saigon ( 8940 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, CA 92683, (714) 896-8782) next to My Thuan, a favorite supermarket.

Cut all ingredients into small bite-sized pieces, the easier to pick up with chop sticks.

The recipe is for one, so multiply the ingredients by the number of servings you are making.


Serves 1

Time to prepare: 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 tablespoons yellow onions or shallots, cut into thin slices
2 tablespoons carrots cut into rounds or small "sticks"
2 shiitake mushrooms, washed, stem trimmed, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup broccoli, florets cut apart (optional)
1 tablespoon corn kernels (when available)
1/4 cup green beans, washed, cut into 1" sections (optional)
1 scallion, washed, root end removed, cut into 1/4" pieces
1 cup cooked rice
2 cups stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup bbq pork or cooked beef, pork or chicken or raw shellfish or fish, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon Vietnamese sweet and hot sauce often served with bbq pork vermicelli (optional)
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions


Organize all the ingredients before beginning.

Heat small saucepan over medium flame. Add olive oil. Soften but do not brown. Add remaining vegetables, stir and soften.

If using cooked proteins, add and sauté briefly, then add stock. If using raw seafood, add to the broth.

Simmer 5 minutes.

Add rice. Break apart any grains that are stuck together. Stir well.

Simmer 5 minutes.

Pour into a large bowl. Top with scallions. Serve with chop sticks and a spoon. Serve hot and eat before the rice absorbs all the liquid.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Carbon Steel Pans Sear in Flavor with High Heat and Easy Clean Up

A few years ago I convinced a chef to teach me how he made crispy skin on a filet of fish. chef Taylor Boudreaux said it was easy. I couldn't believe that. For years I had tried to cook a filet of fish with the skin on and the result wasn't good. Either the skin was chewy or burnt to a crisp.

When I ate Boudreaux's salmon filet with mushrooms, the charred skin was crisp as a slice of perfectly cooked bacon. A perfect contrast to the moist, sweet flesh.

He reveals the secret in the video. A carbon steel pan. That's it. The pan takes an incredible amount of heat. Up to 700F. The skin sizzles and in seconds is perfectly seared. A quick flip to char the flesh and then into a 350F oven to cook the filet on the inside.

After I bought a pan and seasoned it and used it successfully on a fish filet, I discovered the pan's other advantage. Easy clean up. Very much like a cut-down wok, the pan needs only a quick cleaning with a soapy sponge to remove the left-over oil, heated again on the stove top to burn off the water and that's it. No strenuously scrubbing to clean the pan the way I had done for years with the stainless steel pans I relied upon. Just a quick clean up and I was done.

A cast iron pan also works well at high heat, but from my experience the carbon steel pan does a better job. Both pans are relatively inexpensive. A carbon steel pan will cost half the price of a comparably sized, quality stainless steel pan. When you shop for a carbon steel pan, buy one that is made with a thicker gauge steel. I have been using de Buyer pans. Chef Boudreaux recommends Matfer Bourgeat. The advantage of the thicker gauge pans is they retain heat longer than the pans made with a thinner steel.

Cast iron pans are easy to find. Carbon steel pans, not as much. In the Los Angeles area, the only source for the pans is Surfas Culinary District. In New York, I have seen them upstairs at Zabar's

Recently, I have seen a great many De Buyer pans on Amazon. I recommend looking there. Given the variety of De Buyer pans, I recommend the frying pans, not the pans with higher, rounded sides and frying pans with smooth bottoms. The ribbed bottoms are excellent to create grill marks, but the ribs inhibit good sautéing.


Using the pan exclusively, I discovered the beautiful work it does on steaks. 


Treated very much in the same way as the fish filets, each side of the dry seasoned steak is charred and, if the steak is more than 1" thick, then placed into a 350F oven to cook the interior of the steak for five minutes. While the steak is resting for five minutes under aluminum foil, quickly sear your favorite vegetables in the pan to pick up the pan dripping flavor and serve as a side dish.


After that, I moved on to tofu, shrimp, octopus and chicken breasts. And then onto vegetables. Broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, Japanese eggplant, carrots, asparagus, green beans, English peas and corn kernels. Every firm fleshed vegetable I tried worked perfectly when I applied high heat using the carbon steel pan.

Blast the Heat for For A Charred Vegan Salad

Chef Tips For Crispy Skin Pan Seared Salmon Filets

Friday, February 5, 2021

Eating Well & Having Fun in Orange County's Little Saigon

Having written about Little Saigon over many years, I visited last week to pick up ingredients for Super Bowl Sunday's feast. Since I was shopping in the markets, I also stopped at favorite restaurants and food vendors to pick up food to eat during this week. A rare treat that I enjoyed immensely. If you are visiting Los Angeles, Little Saigon is easy to visit and only 30 minutes south of LAX. Use WAZE to find the best time to visit. Avoid rush hour.

Certain foods cause people to become rhapsodic. Proust had his madeleines. I have pho ga. At Pho Vinh Ky, the large bowl of chicken soup and rice noodles arrives with a plate of fresh herbs and vegetables and a small bowl of dipping sauce.
Traditionally, the herbs and vegetables are added to the broth. Rau ram, ngo gai, bean sprouts, mint, Thai basil, purple perilla, a lime wedge and thick slices of serrano peppers add brightness to the flavors. I love the dipping sauce, nuoc cham gung, a mix of lime juice, dried pepper flakes, finely chopped fresh ginger and fish sauce. Everyone has their own way to eat pho. Mine is to eat the noodles first. Each spoonful flavored by the pungent, hot, salty dipping sauce.
If you haven't eaten Vietnamese food, you have missed out on one of the great Asian cuisines. Known primarily for their noodle soups, plates of barbecued meats piled high on mounds of broken rice or served in a bowl with vermicelli noodles and stir fries spiced with lemon grass, Vietnamese food has spread into the wider culinary community because of the popularity of pho (hot beef and chicken soups with noodles) and banh mi (crusty baguettes with spicy meats and pickled vegetables).With several large Vietnamese communities around the country, we are lucky to live close to Little Saigon in Orange County.

My trip to Little Saigon begins at Pho Vinh Ky with a large bowl of pho ga (chicken soup with noodles), only dark meat, and a Vietnamese iced coffee with milk. Arriving early in the morning, the restaurant is cold and mostly empty. The large window faces a small parking lot bordering busy Westminister Boulevard. A dozen Vietnamese men and women are also eating pho. Their heads bent low over the steaming bowls, chop sticks in one hand, a Chinese soup spoon in the other, they eat the more familiar, beef version of pho. 
Because we live an hour away from Garden Grove and Westminster, the epicenter of Orange County's Vietnamese community, instead of eating several dishes at one restaurant, I'll eat one dish at each of my favorite restaurants, taking home what I don’t finish and moving on to the next one. If you hadn’t guessed, that means I bring freezer packs and a small cooler for take-away because the left overs are delicious for next day-breakfast and lunch.

In between meals, I'll hunt out the best bargains at the local supermarkets. 

Here is the list of places I love going to in Little Saigon. Hope you have an afternoon to explore the area. A few weeks ago, I brought home two live Dungeness crabs from ABC (see below: a supermarket on Bolsa at Magnolia) for $5.99/lb. The shiitake mushrooms were also a bargain at $4.99/lb. at My Thuan.

RESTAURANTS

Many of the restaurants only take cash.  Most of them open for breakfast and stay open until late (which can mean 7:30am - 11:00pm; but often it means 10am - 10pm).

Pho Vinh Ky
8512 Westminster Blvd, Suite F
Westminister 92683
714/894-9309

Next to the Stater Brothers’ Market, west of Magnolia, east of Beach (Beach Blvd Exit on the Garden Grove/22 Fwy), Pho Vinh Ky has the best pho ga (chicken noodle soup) in the area. The light broth is clean tasting, the dark meat is sweet and the noodles are chewy. The interior is nondescript. The waitstaff is friendly even if they don't speak English. Besides the pho ga, the other dishes I would also recommend the spring rolls with shrimp and pork, crispy rice noodles with vegetables and tofu, BBQ pork with vermicelli, BBQ shrimp with vermicelli, the pork chop with broken rice and the BBQ pork with broken rice, topped with a fried egg.


Garlic & Chives by Kristin
Mall of Fortune Mall
9892 Westminster Ave & Brookhurst
Garden Grove, CA 92844
 714/591-5196

An upscale Vietnamese restaurant with affordable prices and an extensive menu. There are many familiar dishes on the menu like bbq pork with vermicelli and fish filet on a sizzling platter. The difference is the quality of the ingredients and presentation. Fancy enough for date night but inexpensive enough to bring the family, Garlic & Chives is one of my favorites especially because my wife loves their Grilled Fish with Turmeric and Dill and their shrimp only spring rolls (usually they come with shrimp and pork). I like the squid salad, pork ribs and the bbq pork vermicelli (order the egg rolls as an extra).

Dim Sum
Located inside My Thuan Supermarket
8900 Westminster Blvd
Westminster, CA 92683
www.mintleafoc.com

Visible through the glass doors leading into the north side of My Thuan Supermarket (see below), Dim Sum took over the space called Mint Leaf. The cafe serves a dozen dim sum as well as another dozen Chinese and Vietnamese dishes as varied as braised chicken feet and soy sauce noodles with vegetables. I always buy a serving or two of shrimp filled har gow, pork filled bao and shumai. I eat a few at one of the tables and bring the rest home for a taste treat that night.

Dim Sum - Giai Phat Food Co.
9550 Bolsa Ave. #123, 124,
Westminster, CA 92683

In a mini-mall there are a dozen other restaurants including a Chinese take out restaurant serving inexpensive, well-made dim sum.

T.P. Banh Bao 2
13067 Euclid Street
Garden Grove, CA 92843
714/539-4119

On the edge of the Vietnamese area of Garden Grove, just north of the 22 Freeway, T.P. Banh Bao 2 is tucked away in a corner of a mini-mall next to Dalat Supermarket (see below). There is usually a line of customers waiting to take home a package with a dozen bao. Serving freshly made bao with a dozen different fillings, the most popular bao is filled with ground pork. Delicious fresh, they freeze well. When re-heated, they taste almost as good as they did when they were first made.

Le Croissant Dore
9122 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA 92683 
714/895-3070
lecroissantdore.com

On the eastern end of a mini-mall with half a dozen small restaurants there is a French-Vietnamese bakery/restaurant called Le Croissant Dore that sells good Vietnamese style French pastries. One of the specialties of the kitchen is a bœuf bourguignon that’s spicy with unexpected heat. Served with a freshly baked baguette, customers eat in a small dining room within sight of the bakery counter or outside at half a dozen tables which are usually occupied by circles of men, talking and reading newspapers. The Vietnamese iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk is delicious but very strong.

Saigon’s Bakery
8940 Westminster Blvd
Westminster, CA 92683
714/896-8782
http://saigonsbakery.com

A few doors from My Thuan (below), Saigon's Bakery sells breads, rolls and Vietnamese pastries, drinks and sweets, which, for most items, when you buy two, the third is free. People stand in line to buy the foot-long banh mi with a dozen different fillings. The baguettes are perfectly crisp on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside.

MARKETS

There are a great many supermarkets in Little Saigon as well as Korean Markets in Garden Grove. Each one is different although they carry many of the same products. The prices are also pretty much the same, but there are notable differences between them. At most markets you can buy fresh vermicelli noodles in a variety of styles. Check the ingredients label on the packages to find the brand that uses the fewest preservatives.

My Thuan Supermarket
8900 Westminster Blvd.
Westminster CA 92683
714/899-0700

A large supermarket with excellent fresh produce, dried noodles and frozen seafood, My Thuan has better prices than most of the nearby markets. My wife loves charred octopus salad with potatoes. My Thuan sells both fresh baby octopus and large frozen octopus. The fresh seafood, poultry and meat counters have all the cuts familiar to anyone who shops in Asian markets. The quality is above average. The prices are very affordable. 

Hoa Binh Garden Grove Supermarket
13922 Brookhurst Street
Garden Grove, CA 92843
714/534-8899

How Binh Garden Grove shares the parking lot with a mini-mall collection of Vietnamese stores and eateries and the drive-the drive-through Starbucks on the corner of Brookhurst and Westminister. Of all the markets I visit, How Binh has the best prices for fresh produce and fruit. The fresh shiitake mushroom price is the lowest in the area. The fish market is good but usually more expensive than ABC Supermarket.  


ABC Supermarket
8970 Bolsa Avenue at Magnolia
Westminster 92683
714/379-6161

Great for live lobsters (usually $8.99- $10.99/lb) and Dungeness crab ($5.99-7.99/lb), they have a large selection of fish, some in live tanks, fresh and frozen. I prefer the produce section at Hoa Binh Garden Grove, but ABC is good as well, although more expensive, with shiitake mushrooms, leafy vegetables, citrus, onions, aromatic herbs and garlic as well as fresh poultry (chicken and duck), beef and pork. 

Bolsa BBQ
8938 Bolsa Avenue
Westminster, CA 92683
714/903-2485

Sharing the parking lot with ABC Supermarket are a dozen other businesses, restaurants and bakeries. Bolsa BBQ sells freshly prepared whole pig, chickens, ducks and delicious bao with hardboiled egg & pork.

Dalat Supermarket
13075 Euclid Street  at the intersection of Garden Grove Blvd & the 22
Garden Grove 92843
714/638-9900

The majority of dried noodles sold in Asian markets use lye. One of the few companies to avoid using lye in their noodles is found at Dalat: Twin Rabbit Vegetarian Noodles (Mi Chay Soi Lon) Product of Vietnam - dried wheat noodles: $1.19.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Eating Well & Safe at Home for Super Bowl Sunday - Ribs & Wings

Super Bowl LV! Mahomes vs. Brady! Enough said! That promises to be a great matchup. We'll enjoy the game at home. Like always. Without our friends who would normally join us for the game and a feast. We'll have a feast, even if we can't have our friends over.

I'm making two favorites that I've written about before. Spicy, flavorful kimchi chicken wings and deeply flavored, slow roasted brown sugar pork ribs.

Have a great Super Bowl Sunday and enjoy the feast.

Kimchi Chicken Wings

Chicken wings are sold whole, the drumstick only or the two-bone part. If you prefer one part of the wing over another, buy only those. The whole chicken wing will be less expensive and the wing tips can be roasted and used to create stock.

I prefer to serve the wings cut up because the whole chicken wing is too difficult to eat. 


When you can, find preservative-free kimchi. I have been enjoying Mommy Boss napa cabbage kimchi. Read the label carefully because there are different kinds of kimchi, I would recommend only using cabbage kimchi without dried shrimp.

Serves 4

Time to prepare: Marinate overnight, prep 20 minutes, bake 60 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds chicken wings

1 cup kimchi, without preservatives

1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar, depending on taste

1 medium yellow onion, washed, pat dried, peeled, root and stem removed, thin sliced from root to stem

1/4 cup kimchi liquid

1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Thinly slice kimchi and mix together with onion slices, brown sugar, kimchi liquid and olive oil.

Add chicken wing parts to marinade. Mix well. Place in a covered bowl or sealed plastic bag. Refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare a roasting pan. Line the bottom with aluminum foil. Because the drippings are sticky (and delicious!) I place a Silpat sheet on top of the aluminum foil so I can easily retrieve the bits of caramelized onions and kimchi. Place a wire on top of the aluminum foil and Silpat sheet.


Place the chicken wings on top of the wire rack, allowing space between each part to allow for even cooking. Reserve the liquid marinade with the onions and kimchi.

Place wings into preheated oven.

While the wings are roasting, place the reserved marinade into a small sauce pan and reduce the liquid by 1/2 over a low heat.

Remove wings from the oven after 30 minutes.

Turn wings over and baste with reduced marinade, placing onion and kimchi slices on each wing.

Return to oven.

After 30 minutes, remove and check for doneness. The onions and kimchi slices should be lightly browned and beginning to crisp. The wings should be tender. If not, return to oven and continue baking. Check every 10 minutes for doneness.

Serve hot as an appetizer or on top of steamed rice. The wings are delicious at room temperature, perfect for a picnic. However they are served, have a good supply of napkins available.

Slow Roasted, Brown Sugar Pork Ribs
Stafer-at-home means being careful but it doesn't mean we can't enjoy a great summertime feast. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and any day, we can enjoy a meal and celebrate life even during a pandemic.

For me, that means making pork ribs.

My mother taught me to make pork ribs with a thick coating of sauce sweetened with brown sugar and raisins. Eating those finger-licking ribs was one of my favorite childhood memories.
Everything changed on a busy research trip to Abilene and Fort Worth, when I ate at 25 restaurants in 36 hours. I fell in love with West Texas BBQ.
At restaurant after restaurant, I watched grill masters lay bundles of mesquite into their subcompact-car-sized smokers. With the heavy metal doors open, the wood crackled as flames enveloped the logs The grill masters seasoned their racks of pork ribs with thick, grainy coats of brown sugar and spices rubbed onto the meat.  Waves of dry heat radiated from the smokers. But the heat that would cook these ribs would come not from an open fire but from smoldering mesquite embers.
When the doors were closed, the blazing logs were starved of oxygen. The flames died and a delicate smoke filled the air. At that moment the grill masters loaded in the racks of ribs coated with sweetened dry rub. Hours later, the ribs were removed, their outer coating thickened to crispness, creating what grill masters call “bark.”
I loved those ribs even more than the ones from my childhood.
At home, without the benefit of a smoker, I experimented for years to duplicate that sweet-crispness. Nothing could ever recreate the wonderful mesquite smokiness but I did succeed in making ribs with bark as good as any I enjoyed in West Texas.

High heat versus slow cooking

Mix of kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, cumin, coriander and cayenne for dry rub slow roasted pork ribs. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Mix of kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, cumin, coriander and cayenne for dry rub slow roasted pork ribs. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Cooking with high heat is exciting. There is great pleasure in watching the pyrotechnics of an outdoor grill as sizzling fat catches fire.  Roasting at low heat in the oven lacks that excitement.
And yet, what happens in an oven set at 250 F has its own kind of magic. In the darkness of the oven, the waves of steady heat melt the fat inside the rack, tenderizing the meat and gently fusing the dry rub to the outside of the ribs.
The best magic of all is that the oven does the work. No standing over a blazingly hot grill on a hot day. Once the oven door closes, there is nothing to be done.
Walk into the kitchen and a savory-sweet aroma scents the air. Pull the baking tray out of the oven and press a finger against the outside of the rack. The soft pliancy of the meat has been replaced by a jerky-like crust as sweet as a crème brulee topping.

Slow-Roasted, Dry-Rubbed Pork Ribs

Rack of pork ribs, trimmed. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt
Cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the rack.
Buy good quality pork. Asian and Latin markets are often a reliable source of fresh pork products. Unlike the ribs sold in upscale supermarkets, the ribs in these markets will most likely be untrimmed.
Above the actual ribs, the rack will have a top portion with boneless flap meat and a section with thick bones similar to country style ribs.  Another smaller piece of flap meat will stretch across the back of the rib bones.
Requiring only a sharp filleting knife and a few minutes, removing the flap meat and the top portion is not difficult. The flap meat is excellent to use in stir fries, slow roasted in the oven or grilled on the BBQ.
A white membrane is attached to the outside of the flap meat. Use a sharp filleting knife to separate the meat from the membrane and discard.
The flap meat and country style bones can be prepared in the same manner as the ribs.  They will cook more quickly and should be removed from the 250 F oven after a total of 2 to 3 hours depending on thickness.
While the rack of ribs does not have to be turned over, the flap meat and country style bones should be turned over after one hour for even cooking. After another hour, use kitchen shears to cut off a small piece of meat to test for doneness. Return to the oven if the meat is not yet tender.
To eat the country style ribs, have a sharp paring knife handy to help cut out those hard to reach tasty bits tucked between the bones.
The ribs can be cooked ahead and reheated. In which case, do not cut apart the ribs until ready to serve. Reheat in a 300 F oven for 15 minutes.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 6 to 8 hours
Resting time: 5 minutes
Total time: 6 hours, 35 minutes to 8 hours, 35 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
1 rack pork ribs, 4 to 5 pounds, washed, dried
3 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup cumin
¼ cup coriander
½ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
Directions
1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 250 F.
2. Select a baking pan or cookie sheet that is 2 inches longer than the rack of ribs. Cover the pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place a wire rack on top of the aluminum foil.
3. Lay the rack of ribs on a cutting board, bone side up. Use a sharp filleting knife to remove the tough membrane on the bone side of the rack. Let the knife help you lift the membrane. Use your fingers to pull the skin off the bones and discard.
4. Do not cut off any fat.
5. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
6. For easy cleanup, lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the cutting board. Place the rack on the cutting board. Layer a thick coat of the dry spices onto both sides, covering the meat and bones.
7. Reserve left-over dry rub in an air tight container and refrigerate for later use.
8. Carefully place the rack of ribs on the wire rack meat side up.
9. Put the baking sheet into the preheated oven.
10. Roast six hours. Remove from oven. Use kitchen shears to cut off a small piece and taste.
11. The outside should have a jerky-crispness. The meat inside should be moist and tender. The tapered end of the rack where the bones are small will cook faster than the rest of the ribs. Use the kitchen shears to cut off that section before returning the rack to the oven for another one-two hours. Be careful not to dry out the meat.
12. Once the ribs are cooked, remove from oven and let the meat rest five minutes.
13. Cut between the rib bones and chop into pieces any flap meat without bones. Serve hot with a green salad, Cole slaw, baked beans or freshly steamed vegetables.
 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Celebrating the Biden-Harris Inauguration with a Festive Breakfast

On Wednesday, January 20th at 9:00am PST the world changes. Biden-Harris will be inaugurated. 

As we all know, the Inauguration will be a smaller event because of the violence on Wednesday the 6th and the impact of the corona virus. Without the pageantry, we'll focus on the substance, on what is said and by whom.

Our east coast friends can enjoy the more substantial menu I posted with recipes for salmon, feta topped roast chicken or honey fried chicken and vegetable dishes.

For our early brunch, a Mimosa (champagne and orange juice) is good for a toast. For our breakfast, one-egg omelets, with customized fillings, or a hearty dish of an over-easy egg with sautéed mashed potatoes with crispy potato skins and onions, with sourdough toast and a few pieces of bacon.

For a sweet treat, I am going to make my favorite dessert, a fig tart with custard. There's a bit of work to create all the elements, but the result is delicious, perfect with a cup of hot tea or coffee.

Wishing everyone good health and good eating on everyday but especially on a day when so much will change for the better.

Have a great Inauguration!

Eggsellent - A One-Egg Omelet That's All About Flavor


What's for Breakfast? Mashed Potatoes, Eggs and Bacon


Figs Tart Up


Saturday, January 9, 2021

A Feast Made for an Inauguration

On January 20th, we want our friends and family to join us at our house to watch Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris take their oaths of office. But as with so many aspects of life, the pandemic has changed the way we share important moments in our lives.

Although we will be in our separate homes, we will be together watching the Inauguration in real time. Afterwards, to share our reactions, we'll log onto Zoom. During both, we'll enjoy favorite dishes and toast with a favorite drink.

I was asked to contribute recipes.

Here are the favorites I would have prepared if everyone had gathered at our home. For my wife and myself, I'll make just one dish, plus our favorite drink for a toast.

If you want a recipe, click on the title/link.

Have a great Inauguration! Looking forward to a better future.

Chicken - brined, topped with feta and onions



Roast chicken is easy to prepare.  After pre-heating the oven and washing the chicken inside and outside, simply place on a roasting rack in a pan and bake 30 minutes breast side down, then 30 minutes breast side up. The feta and onion topped roast chicken recipe adds a few steps and ingredients to create a savory, delicious, festive meal. 


For the full recipe, please click on the above link.


Chicken - fried, topped with honey


A chef showed me this recipe and I have used it ever since. Compared with a roast chicken, fried chicken takes a bit more work. The same technique can be applied to fresh vegetables to make best-ever onion rings, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms and string beans.


With the onions, slice very thin and separate into rings. With shiitakes, cut each mushroom into two pieces before placing into buttermilk and then dredging in seasoned flour. Asparagus and string beans, boil 2 minutes in water, seasoned with Diamond Crystal kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon to 1 quart) before placing into buttermilk and dredging in seasoned flour. 


Use good quality canola oil and heat until a parsley leaf fries quickly but does not burn.


For the full recipe, please click on the above link.


Brown Sugar Roasted Salmon


A favorite of my wife, the salmon is seasoned twice. First by dry seasonings. Secondly with a sauce applied at the end of roasting. Depending on the thickness of the filet, the salmon cooks quickly, between 10-30 minutes. Delicious if served hot or at room temperature.



For the full recipe, please click on the above link.


Salads & Vegetables - salt boiled, then roasted artichokes, carrot salad, chopped parsley salad with feta


Roasted artichokes can be served hot or at room temperature, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Several salads give you a variety to choose from. 


[Grilled+Artichokes.jpg]


For the full recipes, please click on the above link.


Sangria Fruit Salad



Easy-to-make and festive, by adding bite-sized bits of fresh fruit, after you toast Biden-Harris, you can enjoy dessert.


For the full recipe, please click on the above link.


Chesney Hill's French 75 Cocktail


Chesney Hill is a go-to cocktail person. When I asked her what she would serve to toast the Inauguration, she didn't hesitate. A classic French 75 Cocktail.


The satiny smooth drink packs a wallop so sip and enjoy. 


Made with gin (or vodka or even cognac), a sparkling wine (preferably champagne), simple syrup, lemon juice and a lemon peel twist. Shake with ice, serve and toast our new President and Vice President!


As with everything in life, using the best ingredients produces the best results. Use a quality spirit and champagne or sparkling wine.


Ingredients 


1 oz. gin (Chesney recommends Empress Gim)

3 oz. champagne or sparkling white wine

1/2 oz simple syrup (1 cup white sugar + 1 cup water, reserve what isn't used)

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Lemon peel twist to garnish


Directions


Making simple syrup is, well, simple. Place sugar into a small saucepan. Slowly add water. Turn the burner on low and walk away. Do not stir or agitate. The sugar will slowly dissolve in the heated water. Do not allow to boil but do reduce the syrup by continuing to cook on the low flame 10 additional minutes after the sugar granules have disappeared. Cool and use, reserving the unneeded portion in an air tight container kept in the refrigerator. 


Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain out the ice as you pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel twist.


Serve icy cold.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Dumplings and Turkey Stew Make the Best Thanksgiving Left-Overs

We loved our Thanksgiving. Even though it was smaller than in other years. Five instead of twenty-five. Even thought it was outside on the patio where the fall leaves fell onto our plates instead of inside our warm and cozy house. We had time to have real conversations in an unhurried way. 

After the delights of Thanksgiving, then come the left-overs. Open faced sandwiches with turkey and turkey liver pate. Turkey soup made from the stock of Thanksgiving's bones and bits. And, my favorite, dumplings and turkey stew. The absolute best comfort food. 


The basics are straightforward. Cooked turkey meat. A handful of favorite vegetables. A cup of white flour. A bit of half and half. A cube of butter. Homemade turkey stock. A few seasonings.

Simmer. Cover. Uncover and serve! Easy and delicious.

Farm-to-Table Vegetables, Turkey and Dumplings

Use a good quality organic turkey and buy farmers market produce when available. 

If you have dried whole shiitake mushrooms, use them. They add a distinctive flavor, different from the delicate flavor of thinly sliced shiitakes.

Use vegetables you love. And lots of them. English peas. Squash rounds. Kabocha chunks. Roasted sweet potatoes. Green beans. Kale. Shredded cabbage. Chopped turnips. My preference is to tilt the balance towards the fresh produce, plating great mounds of vegetables with a leg and a wing or two pieces of breast.

The dish can be covered and served the next day or divided into smaller covered containers and frozen for up to three months.


Yield: 4 servings

Time to prep: 15 minutes (if you already have turkey stock) or 1 hour (including time to make turkey stock)

Time to cook: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes - 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 cups cooked turkey meat, cut into quarter sized pieces, no bones
1 medium yellow onion, washed, ends trimmed, outer skin removed, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cup green beans, washed, ends removed, cut into 1" long pieces
1 cup broccoli florets, washed and cut into 1" pieces or broccoli leaves, washed, shredded
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, washed, stem end trimmed, thinly sliced or 2 cups dried whole shiitake mushrooms, washed
1/4 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
1 garlic, peeled, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup celery, washed, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2" pieces (optional)
4 cups homemade turkey stock, as described below
1 large carrot, washed, trimmed, peeled, cut into 1/2" thick rounds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne powder (optional)


Dumpling ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour, white
2 tablespoons sweet (unsalted) butter, cut into fine bits
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 scallion, washed, ends trimmed, green and white parts finely chopped or 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped (optional)
1/2-1/3 cup half and half, cream or whole milk


Directions

The turkey stock cooks as we're enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. As I carve, I put the bones and carcass into a large pot. Cover with water plus four more cups and simmer covered for 45 minutes. Strain through a colander, reserving liquid in a bowl. Let the carcass cool and remove the meat.

Use what stock is needed for the dish, reserving the rest covered in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for up to six months. The meat pulled off the carcass can be added to the braise or submerged in stock and frozen for later use.


In a mixing bowl, add flour, cut up butter, scallion (or Italian parsley), baking soda, sea salt and black pepper. Using a fork, mix well. Slowly add milk, stirring until thickened. The resulting mixture should be like thick batter. If the mixture is too runny, add a tablespoon of flour. Cover and set aside.


In a large pot, heat olive oil and sauté onions and garlic (optional) with oil until softened. Add cooked turkey and vegetables. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add turkey stock.  Stir and simmer 20 minutes.


To make the dumplings, use two soup spoons to create small rounds of dough. Drop each dumpling into the simmering liquid. Make room for each dumpling so they do not touch because they will expand as they cook. Use all the dumplings batter and cover.

Adjust the heat so the stock simmers but does not boil.

Cook 30 minutes and serve immediately. Place several dumplings into each bowl, adding a protein and a good helping of vegetables with several tablespoons of sauce.

Serve hot.

Thanksgiving Essentials - Brined Roast Turkey, Corn Bread Stuffing and Mushroom Gravy

A post from several years ago with recipes for the way we prepare the turkey, stuffing and gravy. This year we bought a 20 pound organic tur...