Friday, June 29, 2012

Pork Chops with Tart Cherry Sauce

I'm always intrigued by the idea of cooking fruits with meats. However, when I eat such dishes, even when it's good, my reaction is just kind of, "that's interesting." I don't know; they just don't seem to really go together (unless you count tomatoes or lemons, but I'm thinking fruits with more sweetness in them). Oh, except for this one fried spring roll with blueberry jam dish that I had at a kushi restaurant when I was living in Japan. That was a revelation for me, about sweetness and savoriness. But in that case, there's the fried dough skin also involved, so I'm not sure it falls in the same, admittedly vague, category.

I dunno, maybe it's sweet meats in general. I think sweetness has its place in meat dishes, but not too much of it. Teriyaki, bulgogi, tang cu pork, some Chinese dried meats and sausages, et cetera et cetera all have some degree of sweetness in them, but in good measure. Fruits can definitely be good flavoring the sauces and marinades for meat dishes (mango comes to mind), but eating them directly with the meat I think is where things get disjointed for me.

In any case, several weeks ago I got a bunch of tart cherries in my CSA share and wanted to find uses for them outside of pies. Actually, eating them fresh tasted pretty good to me, too, since, come on, they're not that sour. But besides tossing them in salads, I decided to give them a shot with pork chops. I made a sweetened sauce with the tart cherries to go over the sautéed pork chops. The result? Tasty. Interesting. I mean actually good, but you know.

This makes me think of the Japanese mitsudomoe design.

I used the sauce part of this recipe and spice rub and sautéing part of this one in making my own dish.

Sautéed Pork Chops

1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 center loin or center rib pork chops, 1-inch-thick, patted dry with paper towels
1 TBS coconut oil (butter if you can have it, or just vegetable oil)

Tart Cherry Sauce

1/2 pint tart cherries, pitted
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 TBS water
  1. Mix salt and pepper with cinnamon and cumin. Rub mixture over chops. Cover loosely, let stand up to 2 hours at room temperature.
  2. Melt coconut oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over a strong medium-high heat.
  3. Lay pork chops in skillet, bony side facing toward center of skillet; saute until browned on one side, about 1 minute. Turn chops with tongs and saute until browned on other side, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook chops 4 minutes. Turn chops; cover and cook until firm but not hard when pressed with a finger, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer chops to a plate; set aside in a warm spot while preparing sauce.
  4. Keep heat at medium. Add water, honey, and ground ginger to skillet with the pork chops cooking juices, heat to a simmer, stirring, until integrated. Add cherries and continue simmering until cherries soften.
  5. Turn off heat, give cornstarch slurry a stir to suspend in water. Pour into saucepan and stir into cherry sauce mixture before turning heat back on to medium-low. Stir until thickened. Pour over pork chops and serve.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Brown Rice, Congee and Steamed

It works! Pictured above is a small bowl of brown rice xi fan (congee). There's also a little black rice mixed in, making it purple. The black strips are wakame seaweed I threw in at the end to give it some extra flavor.

I'd been wondering how brown rice xi fan would turn out since I've been consuming more brown rice lately. And it works out very well. It's still porridgey, but the grains maintain their structural integrity much more than does white rice, though the still release some of their starch, which thickens the stew. It's kind of like how steel-cut oatmeal grains keep their bite somewhat after cooking compared to rolled- and quick-oats, which soften and break down more.

I used a batch of cooked brown rice, though, so I can't speak to how much water you need to add for uncooked brown rice (more than with white rice). But I just added twice the volume of water to the brown rice and heated it to simmer, stirring occasionally until the soup thickened. Of course, cooking time was much quicker with cooked rice than it would have been otherwise (I don't think it was more than 30 minutes to an hour for me).

Also, I was motivated to go ahead and try making the brown rice congee due to the poor quality of the steamed brown rice. You see, I tried using the "brown rice" setting on my rice cooker to see how it turned out. Brown rice needs soaking time before you cook it, and it turns out the Zoujirushi rice cooker my roommate has actually has about an hour built in soaking time, as well as a longer cooking time once it starts heating the pot. The results, though are rather mushy and unappealing.

Speaking of steaming brown rice, though, in other brown rice news, I nailed down procedures for getting results I do like with a rice cooker. Again, don't use the brown rice setting on your rice cooker (or maybe yours is better, or you like mushy rice). I like a bit of bite to my white rice and definitely more bite to my brown rice. The hull is there, so it's of course going to have more bite to it when cooked right.

About 2 hours soaking time is needed for brown rice (Update: 1 hour seems to work fine), but after the soaking time, it only needs to be cooked with the white rice setting on your rice cooker (maybe "quick cooking" works, too). The volume of water is also the same as for white rice, and I just add the right amount in and leave it to soak so I don't have to drain and add water back in.

What you get at the end is brown rice al dente. It's excellent. Try adding it to your salads, too, instead of quinoa or what have you. Though, I enjoy steamed white rice in my salads, even. Hell, I guess it's kind of like bibimbap, now that I think about it. Actually, my adding a fried egg to my salads is also bibimbap-ish. And when I do both white rice and a fried egg, it's even more like bibimbap. Alright, better shut me up before I wander even further afield.

Just one more thing! In the background of this image is an onsen tamago, or "hot spring egg", an excellent Japanese preparation which I'll have to do a post on in the future, as well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Don't Drop the Deulkkae

A short post this time. Above is my recent second attempt on Gamjatang, literally "Potato Soup" in Korean, but which is a pork (neck) bone soup with potatoes (it'd look pretty badass if I had one of those Korean stoneware pots to serve it in). Clearly, the bones have much more to do with its flavor and deliciousness than do the potatoes.

I'd previously made a very loose interpretation of gamjatang a long while ago; it was very loose because I was missing a lot of the ingredients. This time, however, I had many more of the ingredients Maangchi's recipe asks for, including: perilla seeds (deulkkae) though not powdered, pork neck bones (which seemed to release more of that delicous, thickening gelatin than thigh bones do, hmm), and korean hot sauce (gochujang).

The results were much more Korean tasting. I also found the deulkkae to provide an essential nuance to the flavor that really made it smell and taste like what you find in restaurants. Don't drop deulkkae from recipes that call for it! But damn, it was hard to find. Still haven't come across fresh leaves of the Korean perilla plant, though the Japanese shiso (a closely related plant) can be found.

An aside: as I'm still looking for work, I've had a lot of time for making food. As a result, I've had a profusion of things I want to post about. We may be in for a series of shorter, more frequent posts.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Garlic Fried Rice with Ganbei (scallops)

I'm back from a fantastic week-long trip to Taiwan, visiting family, eating, site-seeing, and more eating. For better or worse, it's reinvigorated my disappointment with the DC food and grocery scene...alas.

But on to the garlic fried rice with ganbei (Chinese dried scallops): genius! This was the first dinner I cooked for myself after returning to the States, and the flavors were just excellent. My summer roommate had some leftover rice he was going to throw out unless I was going to use it, so of course my first thought was of fried rice. I really liked the garlic fried rice I had at Aloha Ramen in Seattle when I was visiting over the winter and had been meaning to try making some myself.

Now, sinangag, which is Filipino garlic fried rice, uses crushed/minced garlic and is just garlic and rice, at its basic conception. I like the crisp texture of fried garlic slices, though, and definitely wanted to include them (I think Aloha did this, too, but can't quite remember). Basically, I included an extra step at the beginning, of frying the garlic and then setting it aside while continuing on with fried rice before adding the garlic chips back on top at the end.

Tip: For frying garlic slices, be sure to cut them pretty thin, so that they crisp up without developing a chewy interior, and of uniform thickness, so that they fry at the same rate. Pull out slices as they finish so that none overcook and turn bitter. I made this mistake and waited too long on some--the darker brown ones.

To go with the dried scallop flavor of the ganbei (aka conpoy in Cantonese), I used fish sauce instead of my usual soy sauce for fried rice, though I'm sure either would be fine. See below for my recipe:

Garlic Fried Rice with Ganbei

2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cups leftover white rice, refrigerated or otherwise relatively dry, clumps broken down
1/4 cup dried scallops (ganbei/conpoy), soaked in warm water for 30 minutes, torn into small pieces if larger than the pea-sized ones
2 green onions, chopped, whites/greens separated

2 eggs, beaten
pinch of salt
dash of pepper

1 tsp rice wine
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp brown sugar

peanut oil or other cooking oil (not olive oil; flavor is too strong)
salt to taste

  1. Beat eggs with S&P, mixing in scallion whites afterward.
  2. Mix fish sauce, rice wine, and brown sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat wok over medium heat. Swirl in oil, and add garlic slices. Spread garlic out to fry, removing from the wok as they turn a light brown. Set aside fried garlic.
  4. Pour egg mixture into wok. Allow egg mixture to cook halfway before adding rice on top. Egg should only be partially set. Turn heat up to medium high. Break up rice and toss with the egg.
  5. Add salt to taste and toss.
  6. Add scallops and toss.
  7. Add fish sauce mixture and toss.
  8. Add scallion greens and toss.
  9. Taste and adjust flavor. Remove from heat and serve.

Tip: use two spatulas or similar tools to toss the ingredients higher so as to air out the rice and make sure moisture evaporates instead of steaming the ingredients.