Archive | February, 2011

Day Twenty Three: Pork Satay with Creamy Peanut Dipping Sauce

27 Feb

I was so spoiled living in the neighborhood we did in SF – I could walk out our door and decide between a myriad of Chinese restaurants (Szechuan, dim sum, Cantonese, etc), Japanese sushi, Thai, Burmese or Malaysian, Vietnamese and Indian restaurants. All were located within a maximum of 5 blocks, so there was no need for little old me to cook it when there were masters all around us. However, now that we live in Tahoe, we are deprived, as there is basically no good ethnic food other than my dear Lupita’s. As a result, I now crave these long lost flavors and am forced to cook it myself. So yet another great outcome from this challenge has been to cook more diverse recipes, a lot of the time Asian or Indian, and really understand them.

I’ll be honest and say that satay isn’t the most challenging dish, and doesn’t really fine tune my cooking skills. But, it is darn good, and getting a dipping sauce just right, whether it be peanut, curry or whatever, can sometimes be a bit difficult since there are so many choices.

I thought this dish turned out quite well, although in all honesty, it wasn’t the finest dish I’ve made.  The pork was moist, crispy on the outside and full of flavors. The pork marinates for a bit in a curry-based paste, and is then broiled (or grilled) until done. I served it over a saute of cabbage and potatoes with Indian seasonings, similar to this NYT recipe but without the yogurt (although I bet it is super tasty with it in there) and with the addition of boiled potatoes. As for the sauce, it was a peanut based sauce that was given a creamy twist from some Greek yogurt. I think the sauce could use some altering, perhaps some garlic (?), but it was good as-is. Christian liked his with chutney, but I take that with a grain of salt because he chooses to eat ANY pork recipe with chutney, even if it has no flavors that are compatible with those of a chutney. This time though, it worked and he said it was a great combo.  I’ll tweak it again one day and see what could make it jump a bit more.

Pork Satay with Creamy Peanut Dipping Sauce

  • 1 lb pork shoulder, cut into strips and pounded thin
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1″ piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of cayenne, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2″ piece ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • juice and zest from 1/2 orange
  • 1 tbsp plain yogurt, preferably Greek
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • cayenne pepper, to taste

To make marinade, combine tumeric through water in a small food processor and combine till a paste forms. Add more water if needed to obtain a paste consistency. Skewer the pork onto skewers (if using wood, soak in water for a bit), and rub both side of pork with the paste. Let sit for 30 minutes. Broil, on high, until done. This will depend on how thin you make the pork and how done you want the outside, but it is about 10 minutes.

In a food processor, mix the ginger, peanut butter, orange juice, tomato paste, cumin and cayenne until blended. Stir in the yogurt and orange zest, and season with salt and pepper.


Day Twenty Two: Braised Pork with Pears, Apples and Shallots

23 Feb

Continuing on with my love of fruit and pork together, I decided to use up some pears, apples and shallots I happened to have on hand. I believe that pears and pork are such a natural combination. It is kind of a stew, kind of not a stew. It is really just bits of pork braised with some yummy liquids and finished with pears, apples, pancetta and fried shallots. Served over a potato-celery root mash, and this dish was fabulous. The result was comforting and satisfying.

The flavors of this dish are simple, which makes it oh so good. The pancetta adds some saltiness and a nice crispy texture, along with the fried shallots, that contrasts with tender pork. The sauce is sweet, but not overly so, and is perfectly thickened from the melted fruit.

The meal as a whole was fantastic, but obviously the pork braise was the star. I ended up serving a small bowl of a creamy parsnip and carrot soup, scented with ginger, nutmeg and cardamom, topped with Parmesan croutons. This was followed by a salad of red leaf lettuce, toasted almonds, pears and apples, and a dressing made from the oil used to fry the shallots, dijon, apple cider vinegar and minced fresh shallot. For dessert, an almond flour cake with orange, dried nectarines and a scoop of ginger ice cream. YUM.

I realize now that the dish is somewhat similar to Shepherd’s Pie recipe – almost like an upside down version. That frustrated me a bit, but they are different, and not just because the potatoes are on the bottom. The tastes were entirely on their own, despite the similar ingredients. Mostly, the sauces set the dishes apart from each other, perhaps from the addition of flour and butter to one, or the added pears and apple juice to the other. Either way, both are delicious and things I plan on making again….. and again…… and again.

Braised Pork with Pears, Apples and Shallots (serves about 3)

  • 1 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 1″ pieces and trimmed of excess fat
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 shallot – 1/2 chopped and 1/2 sliced thin
  • 1/2 D’Anjou pear, chopped
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 slices pancetta, chopped

In a dutch oven, brown the pancetta over medium-high heat. Remove the pancetta and drain on paper towels; set aside. Add the chopped shallots and garlic to the pan and cook 1 minute, until the garlic begins to brown. Add the pork and brown, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, scraping up the brown bits at the bottom, until evaporated. Add the pears, apples, herbs, apple juice and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for about 2 to 3 hours, until pork is tender but still holding together.

Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and set aside (its okay to get some of the apple and pear chunks in there too, but try to leave as many as you can in the pan). Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Return the pork to the pan.

Meanwhile, fry up thinly sliced shallots in a pan with olive oil.

To serve, spoon pork and sauce onto a plate (or on mashed potatoes) and top with crisped pancetta and fried shallots.

Day Twenty One: Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Nectarine Bourbon BBQ Sauce

21 Feb

One of the things I love most about pork is how perfectly it goes with fruit, and how versatile these applications can be.  In fact, the next three dishes I’m making for the challenge involve fruit in some manner. Fruit and meat is such a great combination – the fruit adds a little something you can’t find elsewhere. Another thing I love that can be mixed up a million different ways? BBQ sauce. And how convenient that the two go so nicely together.

I am by no means a bbq sauce master, and I really have only one sauce down pat (which I’ll use in a recipe somewhere down the road). But I do love playing around with flavors and trying new versions, like this one with dried nectarines. I’ve never had a dried nectarine before, only apricots and peaches, but we received a nice bag of them in our recent CSA box. It was such a random addition, so I knew I had to work them in some pork dishes. Right when I opened the box, I couldn’t wait to try one of these. Turns out they are REALLY dried – so much so that you can’t really just eat them like you would other dried fruits. Thus, I realized I needed to soak them real good in some sort of liquid in order to use them. Hmmmmm, what should I use? Oh, yes, bourbon of course.

I’m not against using ketchup in a bbq sauce, but I just don’t think it is necessarily a “universal” ingredient in all tomato-based bbq sauce recipes. It can be too sweet sometimes, in my opinion. I guess there are times when I just want to start from a blank slate so I can sweeten it to my own taste.  So I use tomato paste to achieve the rich tomato base without the added sugar/sweetness (other than what naturally occurs in the tomato itself).

The recipe below worked out beautifully. So many great flavors that melted together. The consistency was nice and thick and tasted quite fresh and homemade, just the way I like it. The sauce hits you in waves – first, you get the tartness from the vinegar; next, another layer of tart, but sweet, from the nectarines; then, you get the smokeyness from the chili powder; and lastly, the heat from the cayenne. SO good.

The nectarines aren’t standing out like a sore thumb, but rather melt right into the sauce – at first, you don’t really know what that flavor is, but you eventually figure it out. The bourbon does get a bit lost, but that can easily be rectified by added more and more, of course.

I highly recommend trying this one out – delicious, comforting and satisfying.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Nectarine Bourbon BBQ Sauce

  • 1/3 cup dried nectarines
  • 3 tbsp bourbon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 of an onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (or wheat-free tamari)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • cayenne pepper, to tast
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb pork shoulder
  • Hamburger buns, or other rolls

Chop the dried nectarines and soak in 2 tbsp bourbon for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Drizzle some olive oil in a saucepan and heat over medium high heat. Add the onions and brown. Add the remaining ingredients (except the last tbsp of bourbon) and simmer for about 15 minutes. When done, cool for about 10 minutes then transfer to a food processor and puree. Add the final tbsp of bourbon and stir.

Place pork shoulder in a crockpot and add some of the sauce, just enough to coat the outside of the pork. Cook on low for about 6 to 8 hours, until very tender. Shred the pork and add the rest of the bbq sauce, stirring to incorporate.

Spread butter on both halves of the buns/rolls and broil until melted and browned. Top with pulled pork and any additional toppings you’d like (I used a simple coleslaw).

Day Twenty: Sweet and Sour Pork

9 Feb

In my hometown of Los Altos, CA, there is a restaurant named Chef Chu’s. I think if you’re ever in the neighborhood, you must try it. Definitely not a walk in place for dinner, as every time I’ve gone there is a monstrous wait. It is worth it though, for sure, but I’d recommend reservations.

Anyway, the food is fantastic. It is far superior to any other Chinese restaurant I’ve been to (with the exception of the “real deal” in SF’s Chinatown, or on our trip to Hong Kong). I’m obsessed with their shredded chicken salad and Mongolian Beef. I’ve often wondered how in the world they can make their food taste so good.

They mystery was solved when I recently took home the old Chef Chu’s cookbook my grandmother had bought years and years ago. Oil. The answer is oil. And lots of it. Nearly every dish is either double fried or “blanched” in oil. No wonder I feel like a greasy, yet satisfied and happy, lardo when I leave.

Lucky for me, the book has some fantastic pork recipes. Christian has been requesting I make something from the book, so during my weekly grocery list/menu planning session, I decided to flip through. The sweet and sour pork caught my eye. The double frying on the other hand did not. So, I tried to make a slightly less greasy version of this tasty dish, while not losing its general integrity.

The result? Mmmmmmmmm. What is not to love about homemade sweet and sour sauce (sans the food coloring though – ick) and crispy pork? To eliminate the massive amounts of oil, I ended up using the technique I employed for the Vietnamese Grilled Pork I made the other week – pounded it thin and broiled. By doing so, I achieved the crispy feel of the pork, only in thin strips instead of oil-laden fried chunks.

Below is the recipe I adapted from the Chef Chu’s cookbook. The sweet and sour sauce recipe makes more than you need for the pork, so keep some in the fridge or freeze it. I’m sure it will be used up with chicken, shrimp, veggies or whatever. The sauce recipe I included below has 2 changes from the original – 1) I minced the ginger and kept it in the sauce. If you don’t want to do this, just crush the big piece of ginger and remove it when you remove the rinds. 2) I did not include food coloring, which I feel is totally unnecessary.

Sweet and Sour Pork (sauce and pork adapted from Chef Chu’s Distinctive Cuisine of China cookbook)

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 thumb-size chunk of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch of salt
  • Cornstarch paste (see pork portion of recipe)

Squeeze juice from orange and lemon into a saucepan. Drop in rinds and ginger. Stir in ketchup, sugar, vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and remove the rinds. The total recipe should make 1 quart.

Sweet and Sour Pork

  • 1 to 1 1/2  cups sweet and sour sauce
  • 1 lb pork shoulder, sliced into strips and pounded very thin
  • 1 tsp dry sherry
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite size squares
  • 1/4 small white onion, cut into bite size squares
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
  • Cornstarch paste (2 tbsp corn starch mixed with 2 tbsp water)

Combine pork, sherry, garlic powder, salt and five-spice together and let stand for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.

Broil the pork until browned and crispy on both sides, about 10 minutes per side (this will vary depending on thickness of the pork, so keep an eye on it).

Heat a frying pan or wok over high heat for 1 minute. Add 2 tbsp oil and then the sweet and sour sauce, vegetables and pineapple. Bring to a boil and thicken with 2 tbsp of cornstarch paste. Add pork, mix well, and serve. Optionally, you can choose not to mix the pork into the vegetable/sauce mixture and place the crispy pork on top once plated. Serve with steamed rice.

Day Nineteen: “Mortadella” Burgers

1 Feb

Mortadella is a fantastically good mystery meat that, despite containing pig throat/neck fat (traditionally, that is), I will continue to have a love affair with. I love fancy baloney. I don’t eat it very much, which is probably why I’ve maintained such a great relationship with it.

Christian and I are in the market for a new rug, perhaps we should get this one:

I’m not sure what it is about mortadella that I like so much. Perhaps it is the unexpected nutmeg and spice flavors, or maybe it is the pistachios , or maybe it is just the chunks of fat. I don’t know. In the end, I don’t really care. I just want to eat it, heartburn and all.

Since I’ll never actually make real mortadella, I decided to make the flavors of mortadella in a burger form. I mean, why not? The sausage itself is pork shoulder, just in more of a paste form and smoked. There’s no reason this couldn’t be transformed into a fabulous grilled patty. And so I tried.

One word: revelation.

The components of the entire burger were the “mortadella” pork patty, homemade tomato and roasted red pepper ketchup and melted fontina cheese. I served mine on a GF bun, while the normal folks got whole grain ciabatta buns. It was served alongside a salad of grilled artichoke hearts, grilled radicchio and grilled red onions with chopped dry salami, red wine vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan, as well as some hot crash potatoes (THE best potato ever). The meal was like one giant antipasto platter, and it was delicious.

Oh, I can’t forget. For dessert, we had Lynn’s gluten-free mandarin cake with almond flour, alongside vanilla ice cream and shaved dark chocolate. I’ll be posting that recipe – it was divine!

I really can’t believe how much the burger tasted like mortadella. I had some slices of the real thing that I brought to the table to do a tasting, and all said it was nearly impossible to distinguish between them, flavor wise. Success! It took only 2 attempts to get the flavors right using quarter sized mini patties as a test. I was pretty satisfied, to say the least.

The burger in its entirety was a hit. Lynn loved the ketchup, which added a nice sweet and hot kick to the sandwich. In fact, I sent her home with the remaining sauce. It really added another layer to the dish, and complemented the pork patty so well. The melted fontina was a subtle touch, but much needed. I think a provolone or even ribiola cheese would have been great as well. The cheese is definitely not the star of the show, and shouldn’t outshine the burger. The patty itself had all the right flavors, and was finished with a nice dark brown crust which sealed in the juices.

You’ve got to try this. It was like heaven.

The only thing that went wrong with the night? As I sat down to take some pictures of the burger, the battery went dead. So, a poor quality photo from our back-up camera was included here. It just doesn’t do the burger justice, but I knew I couldn’t post without a visual at all!

“Mortadella” Burger


  • 1 to 1.25 lbs pork shoulder, ground
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup diced canned tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • grated fontina cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • hamburger buns or other rolls
  • lettuce, onions, whatever garnish you’d like

To make the ketchup:

Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Cut the bell pepper into strips, about 1/2″ wide. Roast the strips for about 30 minutes, until charred. When done, place in plastic bag and seal, so that the pepper sweat for about 10 minutes. Remove peppers and peel skin away. Chop and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, until well browned. The onions should have very dark brown edges. Add the wine, scraping up the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes, chopped peppers, sugar, rosemary, crushed red pepper and salt/pepper to taste. Cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 10 to 15 minutes. When done, transfer to blender or food processor and puree. Stir in red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and with more sugar or vinegar if needed (depending on your preference).

To make the burger:

In a small bowl, combine the spices and add the pork. Add the white wine and mix, with your hands, until incorporated. Divide the meat into 4 portions and press into patties. Divide the pistachios evenly and press into each of the patties, distributing them throughout. You can do this ahead of time – cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat with a bit of olive oil. When very hot, add patties and cook until done, about 7 minutes per side (this will depend on thickness). When burgers have been flipped and are nearly done, place fontina cheese on each burger and transfer to a hot oven (for toasting buns/rolls) and cook until melted, about 2-3 minutes.

While burgers are cooking, toast up some buns or rolls in an oven at 425 degrees (I placed the bread directly on the oven racks and let them get crispy). Spread ketchup on one or both sides, and add the burger. Finish with optional garnishes.

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