When you’re Hungarian for something and a Snickers won’t do.

Wow it’s been a while.  With the sudden onset of inferno level temperatures, work, trying to get pregnant (yeah not sure why either), and having a 2-year-old toddler running rampant in the apartment, I’ve not really found myself spending much time in the kitchen.  At least not for long periods of time.  Part of the downside of living in a 100-year-old building all brick means that some rooms, despite the fact you have central air never seem to get cool enough during the dog days of summer in St. Louis, MO.  I’m only now able to catch a few moments of peace because the toddler tyrant is currently down for a nap (thank you long walk to a store around the corner but took 3 blocks to walk there to tucker her out!).  So instead of doing something parent-ish like shower, laundry folding, going to the bathroom, I currently sequestered myself to the living room with apaprika bowl of chicken paprikash hastily reheated in the microwave in hopes of obtaining at least 45 minutes of quiet that isn’t speckled with high-pitched squealing, the word cat or my most favorite word…Gimmie!!!! There’s something about the lovely aromatic broth coated noodles with bits of lovely braised chicken thigh that washes off exhaustion of being a parental tyrant and allows one to simply just be for a bit.

Growing up in an ethnically diverse family I was constantly surrounded by non-American type cuisine.  Chicken cacciatori made by my mom, pierogis & golumpki made by my grandmother, beef stroganoff by my father, it wasn’t unusual for us to have on the dinner table something that was harder to pronounce then our last name.  What was unusual was traditional American type food.  Pizza was a rare treat,  burgers and fries a once in a blue moon meal.  I figure, I probably ate more Americanized food at school then I did at home growing up and it’s something that I experience today as I slowly creep towards middle age.  While I’m not opposed to the idea of having an all American burger with fries ever once in a while, I’d rather my time and calories be spent enjoying recipes that harken back to times before the colonists invaded the Americas.  And when hangry_catI’m really hangry only ethnic food will do.

This weekend in an attempt to make sure that chicken thighs purchased earlier week did not go to waste I set my culinary tastebuds on an adventure.  I asked Kyle to pick a country on a map in Eastern Europe and told him not to pick countries like Germany or Poland but something obscure that he normally wouldn’t pick and he said Hungary.  I remember my parents making us goulash as a kid so Hungarian style cuisine wasn’t foreign for me.  Kyle however? He probably didn’t have much exposure to it growing up.  One dish I have always been extremely fond of is chicken paprikash.  The reason I probably enjoy making it so much is the fact that the most important ingredient in the dish is paprika and it gives me an excuse to go to Penzys spice and indulge in the perverted joy of purchasing high quality herbs and spices.  And also because paprika is known to be an aphrodisiac which means hubba hubba time…What?  I’m trying to get pregnant and every little bit helps! So might as well try to kill two birds with one stone right?

Chicken paprikash is quite possibly one of the most common dishes in Hungary.  So20170913_183928 much so that it’s listed as the country’s national dish.  Its something that can be used with the paprika you have in the pantry but keep in mind that the “cheaper” the paprika the less intense the flavor is, so if you are going to go all out I strongly recommend you get fresh made paprika from Spices at Penzeys.   If you happen to live in St. Louis, they have a location in Maplewood on Manchester in the little shopping strip across the street from the Shop N Save.   If you can’t then don’t fret, just taste what you have in your pantry and if its weak or bland toss it out and buy a fresh container at the store.  Jays International Market on Grand has bulk containers of pretty descent paprika for not a whole lot of money so check them out.  This recipe is so simple in technique that you can easily  have this on your dinner table during the week after a long day of work and a busy afternoon of shuttling around the mewling quim called children to Gymboree, BMX practice or who knows what.  It takes a max hour to make from start to finish and is a 2 pot meal so cleanup is rather simple.  It’s also an easy meal to introduce your newb husband to without fear of him jacking it up to the point where all you’re left with as dinner options are Taco Bell or White Castle…It’s happened….many many many times.

All you will need is: Chicken (thighs and legs bone in-skin on), paprika (duh), onions, bell peppers, sour cream, chicken stock and probably not the most common item, knox gelatin.  If you want to add a little bit of oomph you can also add fish sauce and lemon juice but they are optional and not a requirement. You can serve it over rice, spaetzli, boiled potatoes, egg noodles, with a nice crusty bread to sop up all the amazing broth.  It’s actually a fun dish to do with your significant other because the first 10-15 minutes require you to be by the stove to make sure you don’t burn anything.  Grab a glass of wine or a beer, turn on some Zappa or Patty Smith (common kitchen soundtrack of my youth!) and get ready to make something that will either get you give you the It is or make you hankering for some lovin before the last bit of broth is licked from the bowl.

If using thigh quarters make sure you separate the legs and thighs in the joint (4 total pieces).  You can opt to use all legs; however using more than 6 thighs unless you have a HUGE dutch oven will mean that not all your pieces of chicken will be simmering in the sauce due to lack of space. Before you start heating up your oil, pour 1 cup of chicken stock and pour a packet of Knox gelatin in and let it sit to soften.  Adding the gelatin stock 20170913_183702will cause your liquid to thicken and allow it to coat the chicken and the noodles/rice/potatoes when you eat it.   Heat up a tablespoon of oil until lightly smoking (trust me this will be more than enough) and place skin side down your chicken pieces that have been salted & peppered generously on both sides.  This isn’t a required step but I find that the dish is somewhat lacking if we skip over browning the chicken off first and rendering out some of the fat.  Plus this will create all sorts of awesome brown bits at the bottom called fond which will be scraped off into the broth when we deglaze the pan later on so since its only going to add 10 minutes to your total cooking time anyways there really isn’t a good excuse as to why you don’t do it.  Place your pieces skin side down until golden brown (roughly 8 or so minutes), flip over (if using thighs) and cook the other side for two minutes.  If using all chicken legs, keep rotating until your legs are evenly browned on all sides.  Remove and let rest on a plate.  The chicken at this point is by no means cooked so don’t be all adventurous and try eating any because you’re gonna get sick if you do. But hey, its your butt and gut so you do what you wanna do.

Take one large onion and slice thinly (or diced) and while not traditional in paprikash if you want to use bell peppers by all means use those too.  I find the bag of baby bell peppers is perfect because I can mix up the red and yellow.  I don’t recommend using green bell peppers in this dish at all.  Remove all the rendered fat from the chicken, reserving one tablespoon and then saute your onions and peppers until tender and slightly browned, stirring and scraping up any bits which may get stuck in the browning stage of the chicken.  Some recipes call for adding the paprika after the onions are tender but I like to add it midway through the cooking process to allow it to toast first in the oil and then caramelize a bit on the onions and peppers (if you opted to use them.. I opt to use them, all the time).  This process can take about 5-6 minutes and while it doesn’t need to be babysat like a tiny toddler terrorist who has stolen my heart, it does need to have a watchful eye on it to ensure it doesn’t go from oil toasted paprika goodness to black mess of wtf I’m going to have to throw this pan away.

Once you’re satisfied with the level of toastiness, 20170913_183851whisk in your gelatin broth until incorporated completely and add your bay leaf.  Try to scrape down any bits of dried on paprika which may have collected on the sides to ensure that you infuse every last drop with that smokey, toasty, roasty pepper goodness.  Take your chicken and nestle it skin side up in the broth until half submerged and allow the chicken to braise for 45 minutes to an hour, lowering the heat to a low temp and covering with a tight fitting lid.  While it may not seem like a lot of liquid, a the chicken cooks it will release its own moisture and impregnate the paprika broth with its essence.  Its…….essence.   Essen..okay I’ll stop…Sorry >.>….<.<… The reason we are cooking it skin up is because we don’t want to end up with soggy flabby chicken skin because it doesn’t really taste all that great personally.  When you have about 20 minutes left of cooking time, prepare any sides you may want to enjoy with this.  I enjoy spaetzle noodles while Kyle likes rice or potatoes.  It’s really up to personal preference what you want with it, although truth be told I’m quite content to have a nice chunk of rustic crusty bread to just sop up the liquid with an ice cold german beer.

Once your chicken has hit an internal temp of 160 degrees, remove all the pieces and place on a plate.  Remove your bay leaf and discard (this is not good eats and you don’t want to end up on twitter with someone going “This spinach leaf is off.  whats up?!”).  Stir in your fish sauce (if using), and lemon juice and wisk in your sour cream until 20170913_183954combined.  At this point you’re going to want to serve it up because if we allow the broth to keep cooking after the sour cream has been added, we run the risk of it beginning to separate and curdle.  The culprit behind this culinary wtf are the milk solids found in sour cream.  As the solids start to heat up they start to split apart.  You can bypass this by ensuring that in whatever dish you have that calls for sour cream it is incorporated at a lower temperature and served relatively quick.  If we allow it to cool we also face the possibility of the broth gelatinizing because we added gelatin to the chicken stock in the beginning.  Either way you shouldn’t have to twist the arm of your dinner guests too hard because it smells amazing.  Prior to plating, take your chicken and dip it into the sauce.  Yes, yes I know.  You are going to ask “if we were just going to dip it in the broth then why cook it skin side up?!?”  Because we want tender skin.  Not soggy flaccid blech skin.  Listen to me, I know what I’m talking about!

This has become a common meal at my house with me and mine and I hope that you guys enjoy it too.  It’s a great recipe to make on the weekend and toss into a lunch bag for a quick meal at work or even to reheat in the evening for a lazy dinner night.  If you tweak the recipe let me know how it turns out!  And like they say on the interwebz.  Bone Appletini Ya’ll!

 

Chicken Parprikash

Recipe taken from: The Best Chicken Paprikash Recipe

  •  cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 (.25 ounce) packet powdered gelatin (about 2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 4 whole chicken legs, split into thighs and drumsticks (about 2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced (optional, see note above)
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) high quality Hungarian sweet paprika (see note above)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon
  • Minced fresh parsley leaves or dill (optional)
  • Egg noodles, boiled potatoes, or spaetzlefor serving

Directions

  • Pour chicken stock into a 1-cup liquid measuring cup and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set aside.

  • Season chicken pieces generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a large straight-sided sauté pan or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add chicken pieces skin-side-down in a single layer and cook without moving until deep golden brown, about 8 minutes. As the chicken pieces finish browning, flip them over and cook until the second side is light golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a large plate and set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from pan.

  • Add onions and bell peppers (if using) to the pan and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom, until the onions are tender and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant and nutty, about 1 minute.

  • Add stock/gelatin mixture and scrape up anything stuck to the bottom of the pan, stirring constantly. Add bay leaf. Nestle seared chicken pieces back into the sauce, leaving them skin-side up. Reduce heat to lowest setting, cover pan, and cook until chicken is completely tender, about 30 minutes.

  • Remove chicken pieces and set aside on a large plate. Whisk sour cream, fish sauce, lemon juice, and half of minced parsley or dill into sauce. Season to taste with salt and more paprika if desired. Return chicken to pan and turn to coat in sauce.

  • Serve immediately over noodles, boiled potatoes, or spaetzle, tossing the noodles or potatoes with the sauce and placing the chicken on top. Garnish with more sour cream, paprika, and minced fresh parsley or dill (if using)

     

 

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I like my fish like I like my soul. Blackened, fried in oil, and eaten in a corn tortilla

In other words I have a very tasty soul :).  It is my goal in 2017 to do a great many things.  Concentrate on working out more diligently, starting school in the fall,  getting pregnant so I can send my ill-begotten spawn out into an unsuspecting world to cause chaos and carnage wherever they go, aaaaaaand to also be more pro-active in maintaining and updating my blog. Much like New Years resolutions, I’m pretty sure that I will fail at some point.  BUT, I will do my best.

I recently made a blog post about how to go about creating your own corn tortillas to impress and dazzle your family and guests at dinner on Taco Tuesday but I didn’t provide you with a tasty filler. Primarily because I ran out of space on my cell phone….I mean my photographer was not present to capture the wonderful spontaneous footage that comes from me cooking.  Yeah totally not planned..at all.  But I was craving tacos a lot last week so it provided me with ample opportunity to recreate Monday’s dinner of blackened tilapia tacos.  If you aren’t in the mood for tacos you can of course use this with any number of things.  Wild rice with a veggie side,  potatoes with a salad, the body of your slain enemies with a lovely frisee salad.  Mmmmm slain enemies and salad.  You’re only pretty limited to either what you have in your pantry, or if you’re willing to commit a felony of cannibalism, which according to Google (yes I actually googled it) it is not.  Like seriously, it’s not

“Cannibalism is the nonconsensual consumption of another human’s body matter. In the United States, there are no laws against cannibalism per se, but the act of cannibalism would probably violate laws against murder and against desecration of corpses” Cornell University of Law

Yeah that’s not a slightly grey area now is it *blinks*

So since we’ve established that it’s okay to eat your enemies you just might not want to we will get into the meat of this recipe which is the fish.  You aren’t limited to what type of fish to use.  Tilapia, salmon, trout, catfish it will more than likely all work.  I say “more then likely” only because I’ve not cooked with every fish known to man so be adventurous!  The ingredients for the rub are more then likely already in your pantry as well so the only real expense will be the fish, or pork, or chicken, or beef (you can use this on anything..seriously..even the body of your slain enemies..its DELICIOUS!).

If you don’t know what “blackened” is I’ll give you a brief history of the cooking technique.  The name “blackening” is actually a misnomer (look at me with my fancy big city words!), you aren’t actually burning your food.  Blackening is a cooking technique made famous by New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme by which meat or fish is cooked in a cast-iron skillet that’s been heated until almost red-hot.img_20170127_174828-copy Prudhomme’s original specialty was blackened redfish. The food is customarily rubbed with a Cajun spice mixture before being cooked. The extra-hot skillet combined with the seasoning rub gives food an extra-crispy crust. It now can be applied to a myriad (ooooooh fancy again!) of different proteins.

All you will need are the following ingredients and you can make as much or as little as you want.  I do a triple batch because I like to have a lot on hand due to me using it in a lot of different applications

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar (can be either light or dark)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt variety)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)

In a mortar bowl (or magic bullet, food processor, grinder) combine all your ingredients and mix for about a minute until the oregano has been broken down and blended.  Taste and adjust to your own liking.  This is not written in gospel but just a guideline so please modify if you want and tweak it. Swap out the salt and used smoke salt or a flavored sea salt if you have it.  Change it up.  BE A UNIQUE SNOWFLAKE!!!.

img_20170127_175323-copyNow depending on whatever protein you use will determine if you need to add an oil to the surface.  Since we are doing fish in this post you wont need any additional oil.  Just gently blot off any moisture off of both sides and sprinkle evenly on both sides covering completely.  If using this from a bulk batch, pour some rub into a separate bowl to avoid any potential cross contamination.  To many times have I not paid attention and put hands that have touched raw food back into a big batch of rub only to instantly go “GOD DAMMIT!!!” and grumble that I have to throw it all away or figure out how to use it on every single piece of raw meat in my house and cook it in that instance.  When it doubt, pour some out..

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Sprinkle Sprinkle little fish. You will be a taco dish.

In a skillet/frying pan/grill heat up on medium heat until hot, if using a cast iron skillet which I prefer, heat that baby up on high until it is dick blistering hot before adding your oil (2 tablespoons).  When you start to see little wisps of smoke add your fish laying it down away from to avoid splattering and let it cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes depending on thickness of size. Try to only place at max 3 pieces of fish as to not overcrowd the pan and cause splotchy blackening.  Carefully flip over with a wide-set img_20170127_180020-copyspatula and cook until firm to touch and flaky (this seems like such an oxymoron. Firm to touch but you can flake it off easily..Firm but fragile..Fuck it just say cooked dammit..Why you gotta be so pretentious cooking instructions?!).  Transfer your fish to a plate while you finish cooking the remaining portions and then enjoy the fish of your labor.

It’s a relatively quick process with fish and would of course take longer for chicken, pork & beef but the results are amazing and before long you’ll be sprinkling the rub on everything and I mean everything.  I enjoy it sprinkled on my popcorn!  And as we’ve  already identified it’s great on the mangled limbs of your slain enemies but that could zombiesprobably be because you’re a zombie.

Hope you enjoy and leave a comment or feedback.  Let a kid know that someone is actually reading this and it’s not just me being quirky to myself!

 

 

 

Kimchi is my gateway drug

Asian markets will ultimately be the death of me.  Not because they will cause a financial strain on my wallet but because of the fact that they make it damn near impossible to decide on what to make for dinner.  That and I don’t know any other language other then English so figuring out what I’m buying is somewhat of an adventure.  All the time. But I still go weekly to my neighborhood international market to see what sort of new and interesting thing can I buy to cook with or taste because I’ve seen it on a cooking show.  I’ve enjoyed banana blossoms in soup and have braved the intimidating durian fruit.  I’ve had pork belly, beef shank, vegetarian ham and 100 year old eggs.  I’ve adventured more in the aisles of Jay’s International Market then I have across this rock we call Earth.  And as much as I enjoy wandering each aisle, getting lost in the mystery of the little silver foiled packages, last night’s trip had a purpose.  And that purpose?  Obtain the kimchi.

I don’t know exactly when I started to develop a love for the spicy fermented cabbage, but it more then likely had to do with my obsession of watching cooking shows.  Some people watch Gilmore Girls, I enjoy watching Chopped.  Give me a basket of mystery ingredients and I will do my damnedest to whip up an appetizer that isn’t a frisee salad in less then 20 minutes. One episode had kimchi as a mystery item.  Okay, it is by far one of the least intimidating ingredients but it peaked my curiosity about the delicacy.  So like most people who show an interest in something I went out and bought a random jar of kimchi at my grocery store. It was love at first bite and ever since I try to find ways of incorporating it into my weekly diet.

This week provided the perfect platform in which to enjoy kimchi but not masked in something as innocuous as fried rice or on a pizza.  Why?  This week was pouch week.  A mental as well as physical reset of my dietary habits to help me purge from my system any and all unnecessary carbs to make the most of my bariatric sleeve procedure I had three years ago.  Liquids for 2 days, transition to soft meats like tuna and fish on day 3, ground chicken and turkey on day 4 and finally normal food day 5.  All the while maintaining appropriate portion sizes which for me should only be roughly 8 ounces.  One of the things I have experienced however is a nasty 4 day migraine as a result of purging myself of carbohydrates.  A side effect, but ultimately the end results are worth it.  At the advise of a friend it was recommended that I eat something a little higher in salt then I normally would and recommended kimchi.  And as a way of incorporating protein into said kimchi dish while maintaining something that would not be hard on my system why not pork belly. It becomes extremely tender when braised or stewed for long periods of time.

After many a google search I settled (and believe me it’s not necessarily settling because if I could, in all honesty, I’d make all the dishes.  ALL THE KIMCHI!!!!!) on a kimchi jjigae primarily because it was low carb, featured kimchi as the star and well it’s a soup and I love all things soups and stews in winter.  So why not.

Now one of the things that I’ve been told is a nice change of pace from my blog is the fact that I don’t inundate my readers with picture after picture of what I’m doing.  Personally I find that rather intrusive especially if you’re doing something like making grilled cheese.  I don’t need a picture by picture play by play of everything you’re doing.  Just get to the recipe and tell me what I need to do.  And then possibly toss in a few pictures for fun and to break it up.

image000006 I’ll make sure to post the link to the website that I got my recipe from at the bottom of the page but will give you a rather reader’s digest version of how to prepare this dish.  The ingredients are rather basic and should be found in your kitchen pantry or cupboard and I’m sure if something is not relatively common in your area you can substitute it out like fresh ginger.  If you cant get it fresh then by all means use ground just make sure you google the exchange rate of raw to powder as to not inadvertently obliterate your taste buds.  I’ve done it.  It’s not fun.

The first step in this dish is prepping the pork belly.  I’m very lucky to have about five Asian style grocery stores near and around my neighborhood which have fresh butchered pork belly (both on the rib bone and off).  For this recipe you’ll want off the rib bone if you can find it.  You’ll want to make sure toremove the skin because we are stewing it and the skin will become tough and rubbery; however if you are feeling a little saucy and want to make chicarrons (pork skins) just toss them in a freezer bag and put them in the freezer for later use.  Once you’ve handled the task of scalping your poor little pig (I’m really really sorry but you deserved it) you can get to the task at hand.  Making the jjigae. Making jjiwha?  Jjigae!!!  Jjigae is a Korean dish similar to a Western stew.  There are many different varieties but it is typically made with meat (vague huh) seafood or vegetables in a broth seasoned with gochujang, doenjang, ganjana or saeujeor (uh..wtf?) and is best served up communal style and boiling hot..Like melt your face hot.  Deadpool after Francis pushed his last nerve Ryan Reynolds hot (hehe I like Deadpool…A little….dawwww he’s so cute!!!!!)…..oh..yeah recipe..sorry..got side tracked ^.^d406645f914286670fe808b3e332a576

Okay, so yeah jjigae, it’s pretty much a stew which can feature anything you want and this one features kimchi and pork belly.  After you’ve skinned your pork belly you’re going to take a sharp and I cannot stress this enough a SHAAAAAAAAARP (like Deadpool’s wit and katanas) knife and slice thin pieces of pork belly.  The reason is for the sharp knife is pork belly is essentially thick layers of fat with thin layers of actual muscle meat.  It is after all where bacon comes from and fat makes everything better.  The sharp knife also helps ensure that you don’t end up smashing it thus taking a lovely 2 inch pork belly and making it 2 centimeters.  Also freezing it for about 20 minutes will also help with easier handling but if you’re like most people and you ain’t got time for that, a nicely sharpened chef knife will do just fine. The recipe of course can’t have normal measurements by Americans standards so when it called for 150 grams translates roughly to 5 ounces.  Instead of busting out my scale and setting it up i just sliced up the entire thing.  Psssh never heard anyone complaining about something having too much pork and if they did they are obviously communists (I apologize to any Communists I may have offended.  I love you.  I love you hardcore!!! ^.^).  Toss delicately into a non reactive bowl (preferably glass) and then get to work scraping and grating your ginger and garlic.  Add a little bit of Gukganjang (soy sauce for soup…yes apparently there are 2 kinds of soy sauce and if you want to cook authentic Korean food don’t be a baddy.  Own both!) and then a little soju (vodka like rice liquor).  If you can’t find Soju apparently you can substitute out vodka, sake, maybe even mirin but do try to locate it if you’re a stickler for authenticity.  Allow all these lovelies to get a little kinky and nasty together in a bowl while you look away in shame at your food voyeurism and prepare the other steps of this dish.

The next step is preparing the stir fry aspect of this dish.  Take a white or yellow onion (I really dont recommend using a red onion for this at all), cutting it in half and making thin slices.  If you’re like me and you have a somewhat sloppy knife slice then by all means use a mandolin if you have it.  Work smarter not harder as Scrooge McDuck would say.  If you don’t have a mandolin I’m sorry you’re going to have to suffer..And try not to slice off your fingers.  Take your kimchi of choice and measure out 1 firmly packed cup (you can use more but don’t go crazy folks!).  Grab a towel you have no emotional attachment too and no not the towel your husband calls Wubby because um, yeah that’s a whole different therapy session right there and over a bowl squeeze out as much of the kimchi juice as you possibly can.  We want this dry so it can absorb the rendered fat of the pork belly. Set the juice aside for later use in the recipe. Don’t
throw it away.  Don’t..I’m serious >.< (<~~serious face!).  image000003

 

 

 

 

In a heavy bottom stock pot heat on a medium heat until hot.  The directions did not indicate as to whether or not to add oil but since the point of the hot pan is to start the rendering process on the pork belly I chose to omit any additional oil to stave off getting an Exxon Valdez oil slick in my finished product.  Add your pork belly giving it a quick stir to help bring up any bits of garlic and ginger that can burn from the hot bottom allow it to sit and render away to its heart content.  Probably roughly about 5-6 minutes depending on the thickness of your pork belly slices.  Once light browning has occurred add your dry kimchi and sliced onion and allow to saute “till fragrant”.  Okay when I think of kimchi the word “fragrant” doesn’t really come to mind.  More like “aromatic” but not the kind of aromatic that makes you go “mmmmmm” more “oh my god wtf!?”.  While your pork belly, onion, kimchi mixture becomes “fragrant” you want to complete the last step of the preparation.  The soup base.

Now at Jays the hardest thing for me to find were the pastes needed for this soup base.  With such names as gochujang and doenjang it had me scratching my head as to what exactly I was looking for.  With the assistance of one of the stockers I was quickly ushered to the refrigerated section where he handed me a container of soybean paste (doenjang) similiar to that of miso and then in the Korean dry item section a container of fermented red pepper paste (gochujang).  Okay let’s make it a little harder next time shall we?  I quickly whipped up my soup base adding the reserved kimchi juice, filtered tap water, both the soybean as well as the red pepper paste and some Korean chili flakes) and added it to my “fragrant” non liquid items.  Brought the soup up to boil and then reduced to a simmer and left it for about 40 minutes to do it’s thang and for me to face the mess that was my kitchen.  Sorry…I try to clean as I go but let’s face it.  I am a Jackson Pollack in the kitchen.  It’s not art unless I’m wiping splatters off of my cabinets, counter tops, the cat…Don’t ask..its always better NOT to ask.

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Paula Dean would be so proud!

After the timer went off and the kimchi was to the texture I wanted I added the final ingredient.  Butter.  As if this wasn’t going to be epic enough let’s just add a little more fat.  The butter actually is quite necessary to help bring a creamy texture and consistency as well as help mute some of the heat should you have added to much chili flakes so please dont skip this step to be “more health conscious”..Sliced up a few green onions stems to whites an viola.  Soup’s done and ready to be eaten.  I was quite pleased with the finished product, of course whether or not it tasted legit was beyond me as I’ve never had jjigae before but it did the trick.  The headache from the carb withdrawals went away and I was left with a content feeling of joy as I saw curled up on my couch with my chopsticks in hand.  A quick text to Kyle to show him what I made plus a plethora of pics on Facebook/Instragram and the knowledge of knowing that tomorrow’s lunch would be something truly unique came with every savory mouthful.  The pork deliciously tender and almost melted in your mouth.  The kimchi still maintaining its structural integrity and a bit of a crunch.  But what got me was the broth.  I can’t even describe it.  It was spicy yet had a velvet texture that coated your throat and warmed you all the way down to the belly. It was both exotic yet hinted of something familiar.  It was just good eats.  Definitely a keeper that’s for sure.  I hope you try it!


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잘 먹고 (Eat Well!)

 

Recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • Marinate
  • 150 grams Pork belly – skinless (sliced thinly)
  • 15 grams Garlic (3 large cloves grated)
  • 7 grams Ginger – fresh (grated)
  • 1 tablespoon Gukganjang (Korean soup soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon Soju

 

Stir Fry

  • 110 grams Onion (1/2 small onion sliced thin)
  • 200 grams Kimchi (~1 cup tightly packed)

 

Soup

  • 1/2 Kimchi juice (squeezed from kimchi)
  • 1 1/2 cups Water
  • 2 teaspoons Gochujang (Korean chili paste)
  • 2 teaspoons Doenjang (Korean bean paste)
  • 2 tablespoons Gochugaru (Korean chili flakes to taste)
  • 225 grams Tofu – soft (cut into large cubes) Optional!!!

 

Finish

  • 2 Scallions (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon Butter – unsalted

 

Steps

  • Marinate the pork belly with the garlic, ginger, gukganjang and soju
  • Heat a heavy bottomed pot until hot and then add the pork belly. Allow some of the fat to render out of the pork belly, then add the onions and kimchi. Sauté until the mixture is very fragrant (bwaha fragrant!)
  • Add the kimchi juice, water, gochujang, and doengjang, stirring everything together to combine.
  • Bring to a boil and taste for spiciness, adjust with gochugaru to increase the heat to where you want it. Add tofu (if desired) and reduce heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes (or longer depending on how thick your pork belly is sliced)
  • When you’re ready to serve the kimchi jjigae, add the green onions and butter and give it a quick stir to incorporate.  I added my green onion at the end to give another texture profile to it as well as a bit of a raw element.  Place in communal bowl and either eat alone or serve up on top of rice!!!

Recipe can be found at Kimchi jjigae!

 

 

The divinity of porcine

There is no love lost between me and this even toed ungulate.  I’ve never been partial to the swine.  One to many canned hams coated in a gelatinous goo that turned a stomach and made one green in the gills.  No, me and pork will never be Facebook friends.  I will however use it to experiment with.  My beloved Kyle however is a huge supporter of the Suidea family.  Serve it up as chops, ribs, bacon, sausage, slathered in gravy, shoved in a tin and called SPAM the boy loves it.

It had to have been a few months ago when I first started toying with the notion of experimenting with pork belly.  I recall it was around the time i was making roasted butternut squash gnudis (totally different blog post but sooo damn good!!!).  A local osteria here had been posting videos on line which featured items served in their restaurant and there was a pairing of butternut squash gnudi and smoked braised pork belly.  Color me intrigued.  I promptly went out and purchased 2 pork bellies at the local Asian market (I live for that place) and then put them in the freezer and promptly forgot about them.  A few days ago whilst digging through freezer bags filled with roasted tomato puree, marinara sauce, roasted butternut squash puree and persimmons i came across both bags of pork belly and immediately wanted to play with them.  But what to do.  It was pouring rain outside.  The idea of setting up my chiminea for smoking sounded as inviting as a sudden outbreak of shingles and I haven’t yet purchased my stove top smoke box.  So what was a kid to do to inundate this slaughter slab of sow with flavor.  And then it dawned on me.  Why not dry age it.  You always hear of dry aged beef but not a whole lot about pork.  After doing some research (link provided at the end of this blog) and reading up on the process I quickly found a dry rub that I felt would provide me with that smokey taste as well as a (hopefully) a good bark.

I quickly went to my pantry and pulled out a plethora of herbs.  Whole coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, star anise, whole black peppercorn, smoked paprika, things that I thought would imbue and permeate the pork belly with flavor without taking from the richness of the fatty piece of meat.  A quick toast in a dry skillet and a few whirls of my magic bullet and I had an aromatic rub that cleared my sinuses for days.

 

I “carefully” scored the skin of the pig in a criss cross pattern, being mindful to not cut to deeply into the meat and then applied a generous amount of scotch bonnet sea salt.  salting

Then….chaos.  I went nuts with the rub.  I was bound and determined to push the entire cup and a half of rub into and onto this pig in order to get the results i wanted.  I may have gone overboard.  Just a little…a tiny bit…just the taddest bit overboard…>.>…..<.<rubbed to death

Then into a zip lock bag for 3 days to sit in the fridge until Sunday.  Why Sunday?  I had read several recipes that said to allow it to sit in the rub for 3 days. Why?  In all honesty I havent the slightest clue but I’m sure as I continue to experiment with this and ask questions I’ll discover the reason.

Three days went by and bam Sunday.  The day of reckoning.pre roast  Did it work?  Did it fail? Are we bound for the ER?  No clue.  So we whip the oven up to a whopping 450 degrees and lay the perfumed porker on a bed of roughly chopped onions which were liquored up with a bottle of my favorite shandy from Leinenkugel, the grapefruit shandy. I picked this particular ale in hopes that the acidic qualities would help to balance out the richness of the fat.  Tossed that bad boy in for 45 minutes,  reduced the heat to 250 degrees and continued to roast for another 3 hours, pouring a second beer in at the 2 hour mark.  And this was the end results.

pork done

The onions were beautifully cooked in the comfit of pork fat and beer.  The pork displayed a bark that made me bounce with giddiness at the hopes of a success…Now would it be as tasty as it looked or was this a complete and utter kitchen nightmare. After a 10 minute rest (which felt like an eternity).  I sliced the slab of goodness in half.  Kyle stood patiently next to me eager to try the bounty of 3 days of waiting.  We were not disappointed.  Well not entirely.  The rub offered a nice bit of heat which did not overwhelm the palatte.  It crept up slowly along the back of the mouth and lingered just long enough for you to enjoy the sweet and salty flesh.  The thin layer of fat which had not rendered off literally melted like butter on the tongue.  The only disappointment was the skin.  While the bark gave the illusion of a crispy skin it was anything but that.  In error I had not read the recipe completely.  I was only to have coated the actual meat and not the skin, leaving it exposed to the elements.  The dry rub essentially sealed in all the moisture and turned it into a sort of rubbery exterior.  Definitely not good eats but easily remedied.  I simply cut it off.

inside pork

The plans for this piece of pork heaven is not yet decided.  Will I slice it thin and serve it up with a bit of celery root puree or will i have it along side some ricotta ravioli with grapefruit buerre blanche.  I dont know yet.  All i know is this adventure was both educational as well as delicious and while I might not be a fan of the three little pigs quite yet, this little bad boy is definitely on my list of things to do again.

 

Please sir, may I have some more?

 

Christmas is just a mere two days away and I find myself wearing short sleeve shirts, light weight jackets and the threat of shorts is a very real fear.  This crazy bipolar weather we have in St. Louis, MO.  Where’s the snow?  Where’s the chilled pink cheeks and the steamed up glasses?  Where’s the endless bowls of soup?!?

One of my most favorite things to enjoy on a cold day is a bowl of soup.  Chicken noodle, chili, chowder, vegetable, but mostly tomato soup.  There’s just something blissful about sitting down in your favorite chair with a blanket on your lap, wearing your ugliest yet most comfortable pair of yoga pants and a long sleeve shirt as you enjoy a bowl of creamy tomato soup.  The acidic tang of the tomatoes, the slight undertone of celery and onion,  maybe a tiny bit of heat from red pepper flakes just invoke a memory of when you were younger and you would crush up an entire pack of crackers only to end up with this amalgamated glob of tomato goodness.  Combine that with a perfectly toasted grilled cheese sandwich which served as your eating utensil and your day was made!  Nothing could top it sans Saturday morning cartoons or the promise of brinner (breakfast for dinner) later that day.

As a child growing up I was fortunate enough to have parents who placed value in even the most humblest of dishes.  There was nothing fancy about tomato soup and grilled cheese.  It was simplicity at its finest.  Open a can of soup from the cupboard, if we had milk great if we had water, meh we made do.  Grab a block of american cheese and some bread.  Slather it up with butter and if feeling especially wild toss on a slice of onion or maybe a tomato and grill it up to the point where any longer and you run the risk of burning it and that was dinner.  And it was always well received.  And still is to this day.  The only thing that has changed for me and mine is the method in which the soup is made.

Instead of going to the pantry for the old beloved standby I find myself more often then naught, making my childhood favorite from scratch.  Sauteing up onions and celery with garlic, adding a can of crushed tomatoes (if none fresh are available), a bay leaf, a few peppercorns for good measure and a generous grind of sea salt.  There’s just something about that smell that just makes even the toughest of days seem a little bit more tolerable.  Then comes the grilled cheese.  Oh that glorious toasted bread filled with rich gooey goodness.  The tempestuous joy/terror when you bite into it, pulling it away only to leave a long string of molten dairy magma hellbent on either falling off and adhering to your face or dripping into your soup.  It’s a delicate dance of antici……..pation (yeah I went there).  It’s in that moment that I truly feel alive (okay so that might be a slight exaggeration but dammit, its pretty awesome!).

It’s not unusual for food to invoke happy memories in me.  Most of my happy moments involve people who are preparing food.  My father and his grilled cheese and tomato soup.  My mom and her bread.  My grandma and her Polish feasts of amazingness.  Its happiness for me.  And on days like today where its unseasonably warm and wrapped up in torrential storms I want nothing more then to wrap myself up in a bowl of happy memories and let the warm creamy liquid goodness take me away.

 

So.  Now that I’ve somewhat dragged this on, one thing I plan on doing with this blog is sharing recipes of what I write about (if able) to share with you my readers.  So since this entry is all about tomato soup I want to share with you my recipe for homemade tomato bisque which is a favorite in my home for both Kyle and myself.

 

Enjoy!

 

Roasted Tomato Bisque with Rosemary: can substitute if out of season

  • 15-20 heirloom tomatoes (can use a plethora of colors: yellow, orange, red. doesn’t matter)
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic whole
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • olive oil
  • sea salt (my current favorite is pink Himalayan sea salt)
  • 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 stalk celery diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 4 oz can tomato paste (or can even use roasted tomato pesto if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • salt/pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (204.44 Celsius) and line a cookie sheet with heavy duty aluminium foil.  Wash/core/slice longitude across the tomato’s Prime Meridian (fancy huh? slice from where the stem is).  Line tomatoes slice  side up on baking sheet with onions and garlic scattered throughout.  Sprinkle peppercorns, sea salt, red pepper flakes and sugar over the tomatoes an onions.  Drizzle olive oil to coat tomatoes and place in oven to roast off for 45 minutes to an hour.  Once desired level of carmelization has occurred remove and let cool completely.  Transfer all contents, including roasting liquid to a separate bowl.

If unable to find ripe tomatoes (especially during the winter season) you can easily use canned tomatoes and just omit the roasting stages and pick up from here

In a large stock pot over medium heat, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Saute carrots, celery and onion until translucent (10-15 minutes).  Add herbs and allow them to bloom until fragrant (2 minutes).  At this point you’ll want to take a spatula and form a slight well in the center of your stock pot.  This is where you will add your tomato paste to allow it toast slightly before incorporating it in with your sauteed vegetables.  Allow to heat, stirring frequently to discourage scorching until the you smell the slight acidic tang of concentrated tomato goodness.  It is at this time that you will add your roasted tomatoes (or if out of season as previously mentioned: your cans of tomato: can be diced, whole, petite, your choice:  about up to 32 ounces or so).  Drop in your bay leaf, bring up to a simmer, cover and reduce heat allowing the soup to simmer for about 45 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender.   Carefully remove stock pot from heat, fish out the bay leaf and either transfer in batches to a blender to puree to desired texture or if you’re lucky utilize your immersion blender until desired texture achieved.  After pureeing you can either return it to the same stock pot for continued cooking or you can pass the puree through a fine mesh strainer to ensure that there are no of vegetables left (for those friends that have texture issues like my friend Ruby) and then return to the stock pot.  At this point you can add your heavy cream.  Start with one cup at first and depending on the volume of tomato base you have you can either increase it or leave as is depending on your personal preference.  Once heated through (about another 5-7 minutes) transfer to either individual bowls, or if serving family style a large ceramic dish which will retain heat.  Serve with your choice of crackers or croutons as well as a fantastic grilled cheese sandwich or two.

Viola.  Homemade tomato soup.  Now I know not everyone has 2 hours to devote to making soup so please know that you can do all of this ahead of time and freeze for later consumption.  Just omit the cream prior to freezing.  Take out and thaw at room temperature, bring up to temp and add the cream.  Or if you like it, go grab your favorite can of tomato soup and dig in :).  Who are we to judge the vessels of our culinary happiness.

 

Enjoy!