Saturday, December 10, 2011

New Toy and Tang Cu Take Two

I have a new toy: an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven! This one's 7.5 quarts, from Lodge (much more affordable than Le Creuset, and the 6 qt. Lodge gets a highly recommended from Cook's Illustrated with a caveat about being a touch small), and it weighs a ton. I'd have to register my guns if I were to use it regularly. I swapped out the plastic handle that comes with the lid for a metal one from Le Creuset that fits perfectly, so I can safely use the lid in the oven at high heats without the handle's melting (the lid-handle that comes with Le Creuset's Dutch, excuse me, "French" Oven is also plastic, and you have to buy the metal replacement separately; seems like they're all just trying to make a little extra money off of us).

I was originally excited to be using it for whole chickens, and while that can still be the case, this Dutch oven's too low for poaching whole chickens (for Hainan Chicken and Bai qie ji "White Cut Chicken"). The wide shape is actually a good thing, as it's more convenient for braising, deep frying, and I imagine for baking bread, too. Looks like I'm getting myself a 12-qt stockpot, too, probably early next year. In any case, it'll still be great to see how braising turns out with it, as well as potentially messing around with breads, maybe deep-frying.

[--side note--]
How do you get Hainan and Bai Qie Chicken's skin to be nice and "firm"? I did the ice water bath when I tried both, but the skin was still rather weak and insubstantial, tearing easily. Maybe I'll try refrigerating before cutting next time, to make sure it cools enough.
[--/side note--]

As for the second part of the title, I tried using the more readily available pork shoulder, instead of short-cut pork ribs, for tang cu pai gu (sweet and sour pork). The higher fat content helps it not to dry out over the long cook time as the sauce reduces to a glaze, whereas pork loin with its low fat content dries out quickly. It worked okay! But I think I'll play around with it some more, increasing the parboiling time beforehand so that its more tender, hopefully. Unless its the second-stage cooking with little liquid that keeps it from becoming very tender. I suppose I could also increase the water to cover the meat in the second stage and take longer to reduce it. Hmm.


Hah, I realize it looks like I just eat meat and carbs. I actually make sure to have a good mix of meat, carbs, vegetables, and fruit. I just tend to do very simple preparations for my vegetables, or eat them raw, depending on what it is. I find that while meats need good preparation (except for sushi, but I don't feel comfortable eating raw fish that I've picked up just at a grocery store, not having the expertise), vegetables naturally have a lot of flavor already, and that extra seasoning on top of that is not really necessary. So that's why I don't often post about my vegetables and fruit. Maybe if I were vegetarian I'd really want to vary my preparation more.

Anyway, returning to the pork, because I didn't use pork ribs, this can't be called tang cu pai gu (sweet and sour pork spare ribs or pork chops), as pai gu refers to pork spare ribs or pork chops. Thus, I'm calling this tang cu zhu rou (sweet and sour pork) instead.

This time I parboiled the meat for 15 minutes. The fatty parts were great, mostly the meat was good, though one or two pieces were a little tough. So I said to parboil 30 minutes in my recipe below, as that's what I'll try next time. I may increase the amount of vinegar a little, too.

Tang Cu Zhu Rou 糖醋豬肉

2 lbs pork shoulder, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 TBS rice wine
1 TBS ketchup
2 TBS vinegar
3 TBS sugar
4 TBS soy sauce
5 TBS water

  1. Fill large pot with 2-3 quarts water and bring to boil.
  2. Add pork to boiling water and parboil for 30 minutes, skimming scum that rises.
  3. Remove and drain pork before combining with the rest of the ingredients in a large, wide-mouthed Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot (can use the same one as before but pour out the water) and bringing to boil over high heat (or medium-high if using an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven; follow the care instructions).
  4. Once the sauce boils, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally so that all sides of the meat cook evenly in the sauce. If the meat dries out and starts to burn, add water 1 TBS at a time.
  5. The pork is ready when the sauce has reduced and thickened to a sticky glaze coating the meat.

Another method, rather than parboiling, is to add a 1/2-cup of water to the sauces and just simmer for a long time. I recently made another batch with the correct pork short-ribs, and had to simmer for 1.5 hours or so before the meat was tender, though the sauce thickened at the right time, too.


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