Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chop Chop!!

Pork chops can be tricky- they tend to dry out real easy and can end up chewy and tasteless. I have tried and tested several different recipes and methods and the best way to go is to marinate the pork,and cook it to serve immediately. This way the meat retains it's moisture and flavors. There is a plethora of recipes out there, from Jamaican Jerk pork to breaded pork chops and this rule applies to most recipes with the exception of braised or slow cooked pork.
I recently stumbled upon a jar of Chipotle chillies in my refrigerator and put it to good use. The results were a succulent, sweet and spicy pork chop that can be served up with a variety of sides. grilled asparagus, steamed broccoli, or a twice baked potato. The best part is the speed with which this meal can be prepared and the easy cleanup!

My recipe for Chipotle Glazed Pork Chop:
4 pork chops- fat trimmed off
2 Chipotle chillies
1 Ancho chili pepper
salt and pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp honey

1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in the food processor and give it a whiz.
2. Marinate the pork, reserving 2 tablespoons for basting and refrigerate until ready to use. Throw on the grill or saute in a heavy bottomed skillet and brush with the extra marinade on each side as it cooks.
3.Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reuse, Recycle, Relish!

Leftovers can make great on the go lunches with a little bit of imagination and a few dollops of your favorite condiment. It definitely helps to have some crusty bread on hand - nothing specific, but baguettes, Ciabatta rolls, or Kaiser rolls give a grilled sandwich a good crunch. Grilled or barbecued chicken, pork, or beef tend to get tough and chewy the next day but work well in a sandwich or wrap. Call it old school, but I have an aversion to throwing away food and try to recycle and reuse as much as possible. Sometimes the results are amazing and other times not so much, but it is always worth the effort to me personally. Back in the day in Culinary School, I learnt not to waste meat. It was repeated often enough to become embedded in our brains that an animal was sacrificed - it should not be in vain. So whether it tastes great or just okay it is always well worth the effort!
Recipe for Ciabatta BBQ Panini:
1 tbsp oil
Cooked pork chops sliced thinly
1 onion sliced
BBQ sauce
splash of hot sauce
slices of sharp cheddar
1. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a pan and saute the onion slices till caramelized. Add in the pork and toss till heated through.
2. Combine the BBQ sauce and the hot sauce into the pan and remove from the heat.
3. Slice the ciabatta rolls in half and fill with the sliced pork and slices of cheddar. Use a sandwich press and grill the panini till the outside is crusty and the cheese is melted.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Celebrating Japan...

Last weekend a bunch of us went out to Sagami, a Japanese restaurant in Collingswood. Tucked away in a corner it is easy to miss, especially when it's pouring buckets out. We braved the rain but were a few minutes late and although the place was crowded we were met with smiles and cups of fragrant tea. There's something to be said about hospitality and how it makes the meal memorable. Our waitress was a concerned grandmother and a Drill Sargent rolled into one. She straightened our silverware and chopsticks frequently, taught me the correct angles to photograph the food( each plate has a face!) and suggested with hands on hips that I eat the last piece of sweet potato tempura that I had left on my plate. I obliged of course, not because I was terrified of her but because I understood the pride she took in her food and that waste is a shame.

The food was undeniably good and beautifully presented - the Japanese make their plates look like works of art and Sagami lives up to this reputation perfectly. It was a sensual experience punctuated only by a powerful wasabi kick every now and then. Gyoza, Tempura, Yakitori and Sushi came in vast quantities and was received and eaten enthusiastically. Our waitress answered our queries patiently and intelligently and took delight in our enjoyment but ducked shyly every time I tried to take her picture. In the end I got one- much to her chagrin! It is undoubtedly a place I intend to return to at every opportunity, not just for the food but the warm hospitality that takes me to a happier place.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Beignets – dessert for breakfast?

Beignets (pronounced Ben- Yays) are Louisiana’s answer to the universal doughnut and a significant culinary legacy left behind by French colonization. Café Du Monde in the French Market in New Orleans boasts some of the best beignets this side of the Atlantic, where puffy pillows of dough are deep fried, coated with powdered sugar and served with freshly brewed coffee. Originally established in 1862, the café is almost considered a must-see or in this case, must-taste for visitors and tourists as well as locals and is rumored to be open 24 hours all year round, with the exception of Christmas day. Although I’ve made beignets before, I made them again recently at the request of my niece Anya. The recipe is not complicated and the batter is very similar to Choux pastry which is used to make éclairs. It is imperative to keep them light and fluffy and the only way to do this is to ensure that the oil is hot before attempting to fry them. The insides, if done correctly are hollow and the exterior , slightly crunchy. They also need to cool completely before the powdered sugar is sprinkled over them or the steam soaks it all up. Calorific to boot there is nevertheless something to be said about this melt- in- the- mouth fried doughnut. To change it up, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg can be added to the batter or to the powdered sugar, depending on personal preference. Either way it is a treat and is not unlike a dessert at breakfast. Recipe for Beignets: 1 stick of butter (½ cup) 1¼ cups milk 1 tsp sugar 1tsp salt 3 eggs 2 cups all- purpose flour 1. Place the butter, milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a rapid boil. Remove from the heat. 2. Add in all the flour and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it pulls away from the sides of the pan. Pour the mixture into a steel bowl and cool slightly. 3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well with an electric beater between each. Scrape the batter into the piping bag with a star tip and pipe strips or circles into the hot oil. 4. Cool slightly and dust generously with powdered sugar before serving.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

East meets West...

I tend to be a bit sceptical about fusion cooking in general, especially when I see poor, if not bizarre combinations on a menu. That's when I jokingly refer to it as 'con-fusion cooking'. But having said that there are a great many exceptions. Some chefs have the vision and an understanding of the cuisines in all their complexities and those few magically come up with the good stuff. Jean George Vongerichten happens to be one of them and his booming restaurant business is testament to his talent and creativity. So I took one of his recipes and made it my own as I looked through my cookbooks for a recipe with sirloin steaks. Recipe for Asian style Sirloin Steaks: 4 steaks For the marinade: 1 tbsp dark soy 1 tbsp light soy 1 tbsp kecap 1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine 2 birdseye/Thai chillies 2 dried chillies 2 cloves pickled garlic 1 tsp salt 1. Bring all the ingredients to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Cool and puree. 2. Add a handful each of Thai basil and Cilantro and puree again. 3. Brush this marinade onto the steaks, cover and refrigerate. For the topping: 1 tbsp olive oil 1 tsp sesame oil a handful each of Thai basil and Cilantro. salt to taste Puree all the ingredients until it forms a thick paste Serve cooked steaks with a spoonful of the topping, on a bed of baby spinach leaves sauteed in butter or olive oil. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Celebrating a classic...

Lately my family has been bitten by the Godfather bug. It's a spate of endless movie nights and I don't think I'm far off the mark when I say that am not the only one smitten with Michael Corleone. The boys tend to get very excited by his passive aggression and are apt to quote "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse"at every opportunity . It was only appropriate to churn out a Sicilian pasta to celebrate this incredible movie classic and so I did a Shrimp Fettuccine Diavolo. Spicy and succulent, it was perfectly in tune with the mood and appetite for all things Sicilian.

Recipe for Shrimp Fettuccine Diavolo:

10 large shrimp tail-on

1 tbsp crushed red pepper

1 tbsp olive oil salt to taste

2 shallots minced

4 cloves garlic

2 tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil

1 can of crushed tomato

2 tbsp tomato paste

chopped basil and parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tsp anchovy paste

1 tsp crushed pepper

cooked fettuccine

1. Rub the shrimp with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

2. Saute them in a pan till golden and cooked through.

3. In the same pan, heat the 2 tbsp olive oil and saute the shallots and the garlic. Once they are fragrant add in the tomato paste and the crushed tomatoes, followed by the herbs and crushed red pepper. Season to taste and add in the anchovy paste. Toss in the pasta and the shrimp and serve immediately.