meat

in the polyscience: sous vide caribbean pork chops

Inspired by my recent MasterChef cruise to the Caribbean, I made this sous vide pork chop using some jerk spices from the Virgin Islands. Tired from the week-long trip away from home, I wasn’t in the mood to cook entirely from scratch, so these spice blends came in handy: just rub the pork chops, vacuum seal, and then drop it in the water bath the next day with the immersion circulator set to 62.8°C for 92 minutes. (This temp and time is for 1” thick boneless pork chops; for bone-in or other thicknesses, consult your PolyScience sous vide toolbox app.)

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in le creuset: pork belly oxtail soup

The latest addition to my kitchen is this lovely bright orange 6.75-qt. Dutch (French) oven from Le Creuset. Le Creuset is a sponsor of my cooking show, Four Senses, and after being surrounded by their pretty cookware on set during season 2 production, I wanted a piece for myself.

This is my first piece of Le Creuset. I’ve heard praises sung for their French ovens, so I was stoked to get one right in time for winter when stews and roasts rule the kitchen. I got mine in a bright orange, just to make sure I don’t miss the thing sitting on my stove. ;) Orange is also the color for inducing appetite and socialability (while blue suppresses them).

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in the polyscience: sous vide pork belly bao

Last week, I posted a video about my menu for the Ikea Supper Club: five courses of small offerings that reflected both my heritage and upbringing. A month has gone by since the Supper Club, and I still reflect upon the menu fondly.

The guests seemed to thoroughly enjoy the dishes (or at least that’s what they told me), and when asked which was their favorite, a majority said it was the pork belly bao.

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in the polyscience: sous vide vietnamese short ribs

Our family has been obsessed with sous vide ever since we got a PolyScience immersion circulator. The great thins about sous vide cooking are: (1) the prep is minimal (just set it and forget it); and (2) the results are perfect (granted your ingredient and ratios were perfect going in). The hubster once got overly excited about brining and let his spareribs sit in a salt bath for two days, and after an additional 72 hours in the water bath, the ribs were the best texture but way too salty.

Sous vide is a great technique for tough cuts of meat because the slow cook at low temperatures help turn the fibrous collagen into gelatinous goodness, while preserving the protein’s cell walls so that they don’t break down and leak vital juices.

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in the polyscience: sous vide turkey

This was the first Thanksgiving in 12 years that I did not serve a fried turkey for our family Thanksgiving meal. Since my mama-in-law shrinks away from fried foods, we decided to put the new PolyScience immersion circulator to good use and sous vide our turkey instead.
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roasted pork and provolone sandwiches

I haven’t posted a recipe in a while. It’s mainly because most of the things I’ve been cooking lately are recipes going into my cookbook (which, I might add, is slated to publish in May). So, of course, in order to entice you to buy the cookbook, I can’t be posting them all over the web, right?
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cajun cornish hens

With the end of crawfish season comes a need to find other ways to fulfill our Cajun cravings. In my last post, I tried my hand at making dirty rice. And now here’s how to up the flavor in that rice. Try stuffing it in a Cornish hen. Juicy goodness will drip into the stuffing during cooking, adding an even more savory dimension to the rice.

Cornish hens, despite their names, could be either male or female. They are a hybrid breed of chicken growing no more than five weeks and weighing no more than two pounds. Their meat is sweeter and more tender than regular chicken, and they cook quicker, too, making them choice for entertaining.

Because I’d gotten rid of my roasting pan, we had to MacGyver one out of a tin pan, aluminum cans, and rolled up balls of foil. By placing these cans and foil balls loosely in the pan and setting the hens on top, the juices will trickle between the gaps and collect at the bottom instead of directly underneath the hens, thereby keeping them from getting soggy. Ghetto-rigged brilliance.

I used ready-made Cajun seasoning instead of making my own just because I already had it in my spice drawer. You can try making your own by mixing to taste kosher salt, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.

The Cornish game hens came out not as spicy as I’d hoped (I suggest liberally rubbing on the Cajun seasoning), but it was still a good complement to the dirty rice. I served each person half a Cornish hen with extra dirty rice and a side of roasted Brussels sprouts (recipe coming soon to an entry near you). Pretty simple yet really tasty. Come on, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.


Recipe: Cajun Cornish Hens

Ingredients

  1. 4 Cornish hens
  2. 4 tbsp. butter
  3. 6 to 8 tbsp. Cajun seasoning
  4. 3 c. dirty rice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rinse Cornish hens and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Stuff the cavity of each hen with dirty rice. Pack it in real good.
  4. Wedge a tbsp. of butter between the skin and breast meat of each hen. Then liberally rub the hen with Cajun seasoning.
  5. Place in the roasting pan and cover with tented foil. Roast in the oven for 45 to 60 min. Then remove cover and roast for another 10 to 15 min. Let sit for 10 min. before cutting in half lengthwise and serving.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

roasted lamb chops

Juicy lovely lamb

I don’t understand people who claim they don’t eat lamb because it’s “too gamey.” Duck and lamb, when it’s a good cut of meat and when it’s fresh, have got to be some of the least gamey meat around. But to each his own, I guess.

For me, I adore lamb. And not just because it used to be a cute cuddly hand puppet (I say “used to” because it’s now a juicy pink piece of meat on my plate) but because it tastes pretty darn good. But because it’s expensive, I’d always been intimidated to try it at home. But during a recent trip to Costco, I couldn’t resist. Into our cart went a half rack of lamb (which yields about 7 bones) for $22. After tinkering around online, I found a surefire recipe online. The only thing I changed was to omit the bread crumbs since John was eating low carbs.

Before cooking this, you MUST have a meat or food thermometer. It is vital to cooking all meats—you cannot cook a perfect steak, pot roast, turkey, prime rib, or rack of lamb without one. I just got my digital thermometer at Target, and it’s served me fine. For convenience, buy one with a timer and a alarm option for when it reaches a certain temperature. That way, you can set it to ___°F and go watch “Jersey Shore” until it beeps and announces your rump roast is ready. (Just kidding—don’t watch “Jersey Shore.”)

So here is an easy way to cook a rack of lamb. Try it next time for a special occasion. It makes for a beautiful presentation, especially when served with some colorful vegetables like asparagus and purple potatoes. Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

 

: Roasted Lamb Chops

 

  1. 1 single (7-bone) rack of lamb, trimmed & frenched
  2. 1/2 c. bread crumbs
  3. 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  4. 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  5. 2 tsp. salt
  6. 1.25 tsp. ground black pepper
  7. 4 tbsp. olive oil
  8. 1 tbsp. dijon mustard

 

  1. Roasted Lamb ChopsMove oven rack to center position. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a lg. bowl, combine bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Toss in 2 tbsp. olive oil to moisten mixture.
  3. Season rack of lamb with remaining salt & pepper. Heat remaining olive oil in a lg. heavy oven-proof skillet over high heat. Sear rack of lamb for 1 to 2 min. on all sides. Set aside for a few min.
  4. Brush rack of lamb with mustard. Roll in bread crumb mixture until evenly coated. Cover the bone ends with foil to prevent charring.
  5. Arrange rack boneside down in skillet. Insert thermometer into rack. Roast for 12 to 18 min. depending on desired doneness. Let it rest for 5 to 7 min., loosely covered, before carving between ribs.

 

To “french” a rack of lamb means to clean the meat, cartilage, and fat between tips of the bones to make for a neater presentation.

Allow for the internal temperature to be 5 to 10 degrees lower than desired since meat will continue cooking once removed from the oven.

Bloody rare – 115-125 degrees
Rare – 125-130 degrees
Med.rare – 130-140 degrees
**Med. – 140-150 degrees

**I like my lamb medium.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

stock & congee: what to do with all that leftover turkey

Our deep-fried turkey before it became a bare carcass.

Your crazy family came and went. Now all that’s left is a big ol’ turkey carcass. Wait, don’t throw anything away just yet. In this time and age when offal eating has become the trend, I’m going to show you what you can do with all those leftover turkey bones.

First, you make turkey stock. Duh! Then, you use that stock to make turkey congee.

Every Asian country has its own version of rice porridge. It’s the ultimate Asian comfort food. Think of the Americans with their chicken noodle soup. Well, the Asians have their rice porridge. It’s what you feed someone under the weather. I admit I used to hate congee or chao (as it’s called in Vietnamese) because it was all my mama let me eat when I was sick. Incidentally, I grew to associate congee only with illness. Of course it left a negative impression on me. But now that I’ve got no mama to cook me homemade congee, I had to roll up my sleeves and do it myself. Now I don’t necessarily eat congee just when I’m sick; I’ll eat it when it’s cold out. (Speaking of which, Houston is finally starting to feel like winter. Yippee!) I eat it because it’s hearty, warm, and best of all, simple to make. I almost always have the ingredients on hand to make congee, but even if I don’t, the great thing about congee is its versatility. You can just about throw anything into it. Perhaps the only requirement is stock or broth and rice. (I’ve even seen some people cook congee with plain water but I don’t recommend this—too plain.)

So read on, and learn how to make turkey stock with that leftover carcass and then, subsequently, turkey congee. And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you. Happy winter eating!

 

: Turkey Stock

: Stock can be made from any animal’s bones, but I especially like poultry stock made from chicken, duck, or turkey.

 

  1. 1 bird carcass
  2. 2 to 3 carrots, chopped into 2″ pcs.
  3. 2 to 3 celery stalks, cut into 2″ pcs.
  4. 1 med. onion, chopped
  5. 1 to 2 bay leaves

 

  1. If necessary, chop bones so they will fit into a stockpot. Place bones into a stockpot and fill with enough water to cover. Add carrots, celery, onion, and bay leaves. Bring almost to a boil but do not let it boil.
  2. Reduce heat. In the first hr., skim off any scum that floats to the surface. Cover and let simmer for approx 3 hrs.
  3. Turn off heat and let cool. Strain through a mesh sieve into containers, leaving 1/2″ space at the top. (This is to prevent the containers from busting when the stock expands in the freezer.) Discard bones and vegetables.
  4. Refrigerate overnight. Spoon out and discard any gelatenous fat that solidifies at the top before using or freezing.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 3 hour(s)

: Turkey Congee

: Chao is the Vietnamese term for congee.

 

  1. 1 c. uncooked jasmine rice
  2. 4 to 6 c. turkey stock
  3. 3/4 c. leftover turkey meat, shredded
  4. 1/2 med. onion, chopped
  5. 1 sm. pc. ginger, minced
  6. 1 to 2 carrots, peeled & finely chopped (optional)
  7. 2 tbsp. fish sauce or to taste
  8. 1 scallion, finely chopped
  9. a few sprigs cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
  10. ground black pepper

 

  1. In a med. saucepan, combine rice, stock, turkey meat, onion, ginger, and carrots if using. Bring to a low boil.
  2. Reduce heat and add fish sauce. Cover and let simmer for approx. 25 min. or until rice reaches desired consistency. Season with ground black pepper and more fish sauce to taste. Garnish with scallion and cilantro. Serve hot.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

oven-fried chicken

Mmm...greeease...

Again it’s been a while since I posted a food entry. It’s not that I haven’t been eating or cooking. It’s just I’ve been doing a lot more thinking about food and cooking rather than writing ever since I read The Flavor Bible (which I still need to blog about). Anyway, back to what makes the world go round: food.

I’m often asked what would be my last meal. Because this question is so difficult for someone that loves so many different kinds of food, my last meal would inevitably be a multiple-course meal consisting of all my favorite eats: sushi, French fries, my mama’s eggrolls, New- York-style cheese pizza, fried chicken, and a bowl of noodle soup (most likely ramen or pho). I don’t know if there’s a commonality to my favorite foods except maybe DELICIOUS! Just kidding. Maybe unhealthy? Aside from the sushi, I guess.

So yes, fried chicken is one of my favorite foods. Most things can’t go wrong when they’re dropped in a vat of oil. While I love KFC’s original recipe and Popeye’s Cajun spicy fried chicken, I thought why not try my hand at homemade fried chicken? The last time I attempted fried chicken years ago, I made the mistake of not monitoring the oil temperature and so the chicken turned out charred on the outside and still raw on the inside. This time, I followed a method from Ina Garten that involves frying the chicken to seal in the juices and then finishing it off in the oven for thorough cooking. I tried to look online for KFC’s secret original recipe but my kitchen was missing the MSG (not to mention marjoram at the time) so I had to make due with only nine out of the eleven secret herbs and spices. I only put in about half the amount of herbs and spices as I should have, and the chicken could’ve used more flavor, but trial error is inevitable. I boosted the measurements in the recipe below, so hopefully your chicken turns out even tastier. A quick tip before you fry: to keep chicken crispy, set fried pieces atop brown paper bags instead of paper towels after frying. Happy frying, and remember that if the Blind can Cook it, so can you!

 

: Oven-Fried Chicken

: Original recipe from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

 

  1. 2 (3 lbs.) chickens, each cut into 8 pcs.
  2. 1 qt. buttermilk
  3. 2 c. all-purpose flour
  4. 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  5. 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1 tsp. dried basil
  7. 1 tsp. chili powder
  8. 1 tsp. garlic powder
  9. 1 tsp. dried marjoram
  10. 1 tsp. onion salt
  11. 1 tsp. dried oregano
  12. 1 tsp. paprika
  13. 1 tsp. ground sage
  14. 2 tbsp. MSG
  15. vegetable shorening or oil for frying

 

  1. Place chicken pcs. in a baking pan and pour buttermilk over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Combine flour, and all 11 herbs and spices in a lg. bowl. Take each chicken piece out of the buttermilk and cover liberally with flour mixture. Pour oil or shortening in a lg. heavy-bottomed stockpot to a depth of 1″. Heat oil to 360 degrees.
  3. Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in oil and fry for 3 min. on each side or until coating is a light golden brown. (It will continue to brown in the oven.) Don’t crowd the pieces. Remove chicken from oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan. Allow oil to return to 360 degrees before frying next batch.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 min. until chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

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