All posts filed under: International

One from Column ‘A’ – Five Spice Caramel Pork

To be fair, I’ve never seen this on any Chinese take-out menu. I have only been able to get it in Bangkok…. or at my favorite Chinese fare haunt in the city. So, dont hate me there. In fact, if you are going to hate me at all – its because I’ve monkeyed around with the traditional recipe a goodly amount… I’m not using pork belly, Jane is deathly allergic to soy, neither of us like our head blown off with heat….. and (God forbid), I’m not using a wok, it’s a Dutch oven. Five spice pork is an old Cantonese recipe that has cousins and distant relatives across most of Asia. And, unlike most take-out oferings, is more of a stew rather than a quick wok fried dish (hence, the dutch oven.) It is smoky, spicy, slightly sweet and terribly flavor packed. Short of Char Sui, it is my absolute favorite way to enjoy pork. Alrighty then… on with the changes we’ve made. Chinese Five Spice Powder – If you wanted to go through …

Tales of Woe ~ that Madeira Tart

I’ve always wanted to make a Bakewell Tart. But, with our particular allergy set, ground almonds in anything is just asking for trouble.  Back around the first of February, I came across this recipe for Irish Bakewell Buns. The ingenious thing is – unlike a traditional Bakewell Tart,  she didn’t use ground almonds… she used a Madeira sponge for the topping. Okay..fine.. I skimmed the recipe – saw the word Madeira – and my monkey brain said, “How cool! Madeira wine instead of almonds! … just the thing to give that nutty, rich flavor without dealing with the consequences of tree nuts.” If you’re from the UK – you already know where this is headed… feel free to bury your face in your hands. Anyway… I ran out and scoured the mountainside for Madeira to make those lovely buns. It wasn’t easy… it took me nearly 3 weeks to locate a bottle.  It appears Madeira isn’t terribly popular up here in the hills. Then, it was time to make the buns…. The thing is… Madeira Sponge Cake …

One from Column “A” – Braised Tofu with Pork

So, I used to go to this little hole-in-the-wall Chinese place. It was partly because of the “other” menu, as they did serve some pretty non – standard fare… or at least they did when “the usual suspect” was dining with me. I had my first Shark Fin Soup there, my first 1000 year old egg, and my 1-1/2 hour Oyster Pancakes  I found out later that they really didn’t take that long, they ran out of oysters and made a special run to the international market to buy enough for the cakes… so it was partly because of the service… But mainly, it was because of the chili sauce they brought to our table. It was spicy without being painful. It was oily. It was electric. It was supremely flavorful… and it was porky…. yes… porky. There would be nights that we would only order dumplings – and a bowl of that sauce with rice crackers. It was addictive. After six years trying to wrangle the recipe out of them, I just gave up. …

10 (tamales) the hard way

I guess first and foremost I should say these aren’t what you’d call authentic tamales. I didn’t learn to mix the batter on my Hispanic Nana’s lap. There were no Mexican housekeepers bringing sacks laden with those beautiful little jewels when they came to the house. Nor, have I ever lived with anyone that made them.. I am the walking / talking embodiment of an Anglo/Saxon gene pool, and my childhood idea of a tamale came in those little glass jars stuffed with six paper-wrapped, cigar shaped cumin flavored cylinders. So, no instinctive knee jerk aptitude there. But… I worked for a time with a South American construction company. We ate a lot of tacos… and tortas… and tamales. So I know a thing or two about them. Well, I know what I like and don’t like about them. And, as it happens… I’ve eaten a lot of crappy ones, especially in Mexican restaurants. For me- the masa should be dense, cohesive, flavorful – with just the slightest pudding consistency; the filling – plentiful, meaty with a couple …

Weeknight Meals – Chicken with Tomato Chutney

Here’s the thing… this is probably less of a chutney and more of an affected curry. But I really hate calling things curry.. that, well… isn’t. And besides, curry just brings to mind snippets of that forgotten night where me and the donkey woke up covered in roti crumbs reeking of hookah smoke. merrr… So, since it’s closer to chutney than that other thing…  we’re sticking to chutney. Chicken With Tomato Chutney Serves 4(ish) Ingredients 6 Chicken Thighs (Skin On) 6 to 8 Small Ripe Tomatoes (Patio Type) Cut in Half 1 Cup Diced Sweet Onion (Use your geographical favorite – Vidalia, Texas Sweet, Peruvian Sweet, Monrovian Sugar Head, Bora Bora Sweet Tooth…whatever…) 1/2 Cup Diced Celery 1 Clove Garlic – Minced 1 Can Black Olives – Drained (you’ll undoubtedly notice I’ve used the green ripe olives) 2 Teaspoons Garam Masala 1 Cup Vegetable Stock 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Mace 1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper 1 Teaspoon Tamarind Paste 2 Tablespoons Ketchup (shush) 1 Tablespoon Honey 2 Tablespoons Oil 1/4 Cup Raisins …

One from column “A” – Pork Fried Rice

Given that it’s essentially:  rice – some variety of diced meatage – vegetables (usually carrots and peas) and some sort of seasoning, you really wouldn’t think there would be that much differentiation between recipes and production…. stir-fry it all together and you get fried rice…. right? The possibilities for construction are endless, and if you happen to find that magical step-to process, you’d be rewarded with starchy, salty, meaty nirvana. Why then is fried rice the culinary crap shoot at Chinese restaurants? Tasteless and oily, gummy and salty, dry and..well… just d r y. But understanding what the majority of fried rice is – a way to utilize leftovers in a restaurant environment – then you can see why there really is very little thought put into something that is basically a throwaway dish. However, in order to be good (and I mean really good) fried rice,  it has to be made fresh, with quality ingredients, and not left to steam away to oblivion in some holding table waiting for that specific “quality” diner that prefers fried over …

Weekday Meals – Down & Dirty Paella

In a perfect world, I could prioritize my time so there’d be enough time to rake the leaves, re-organize the studio, sweep, mop, dust, make 3 trips to the local home improvement (take all my money) mart,  design and trench out the drainage system for the summer rental –  with enough time left over to whip up a tasty paella… all before lunch. I don’t even live next-door to that world. I marvel.. yes, marvel at these do-it-all kind of people that home-school, soccer mom, carpool, volunteer at nine different charities, cook non-stop and still have enough time to be uber crafty and blog relentlessly about it… don’t they sleep? I mean… I’m up at 6:00 every day and I get my day started. But there are days when I just and it’s three in the afternoon…  and I’m still in pjs. I had a craving yesterday for paella. And, while I would have loved to have had time for this: … time just wasn’t my friend. I settled for a down and dirty quick paella. Quick, …

One From Column B – Twice Cooked Pork

Alright, it’s confession time. This really isn’t authentic Twice Cooked Pork. But in my defense, I can probably count on one hand… with 3 fingers missing… the number of times I had authentic Twice Cooked Pork in a Chinese restaurant… including my trips to Asia. I’ve decided that it has become the Chinese version of refrigerator stir fry, where as long as you’re using already cooked pork – you’re golden. In the past, the pork has been left over Chinese BBQ pork (my personal favorite), left over stir fry, pork belly, or just roasted. It’s come with pineapple, bean sprouts, big chunks of onion, water chestnuts and whatever diced veg goes into every other dish. The sauce is often laden with garlic, hot pepper, or overrun with gloppy, sweetened generic brown sauce. It’s a hot mess. So, in all fairness, I’ll tell you what it’s supposed to be: The Pork is to be boiled in water, rice wine and ginger – cooled and sliced. The Vegetables should only be leeks and red bell pepper. The Sauce is …

99 cans of chickpeas on the wall…

For the most part – they’ve been there a year. Back last October when I was preparing for the “Party with a Pretty Dress”, in the middle of packing the truck for the 5 hour drive, I rationally  ran to the market and picked up 15 cans of discount chickpeas. Thinking, that on top of all the other things I was making for the wedding, I’d whip up a gallon of fresh hummus as well… since I obviously didn’t have enough to do. I tend to over-plan. I tend to bite off more than I can chew. I tend to take the short bus to Crazytown at times. When I get like that people really ought to handcuff me to a steam table and spoon feed me ritalin until I succumb into a coma. Somewhere in the wee hours the day before the event, I came to my senses and bought readi-made hummus. But that left me with a boatload of chickpeas, and since it’s almost their birthday…. Chickpea Stew –  Riding the trolley several years ago …

Spanish Style Brown Rice – It’s Heazy!

Um.. Heazy.. … not to be confused with dubious rapper speak referring to a particular sector of personal space. “That car was all up in my heazy… fo’ sheazy.” Several months ago… okay – like 8, I got a box of Integrale Brown Risotto Rice from Marx Foods to play around with. And as things happen sometimes – timing just didn’t work out for me to do something with it. I ignored it. And, if I’m going to be completely honest – I’d rather choke down an entire pot of overcooked oatmeal than eat risotto. I’m just not a fan. It’s just way too much freakin‘ effort to end up with something that looks and tastes like bad rice. It ended up languishing in the pantry; bullying the gluten-free pasta and poking holes in the bag of orzo. But… Since we’re trying to eat healthier, I decided to pull the package out and figure out something to do with it. Here’s the thing with Integrale Rice – it IS better for you than just eating …