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Posts Tagged ‘black pepper’

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Last night we dined on some pulled pork shoulder that I made. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to serve it, but when Yuki was on her way home from work she stopped to grab some tortillas and oiala, lemongrass carnitas were born…and devoured…and still getting devoured as there is a ton of it in our fridge.

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I started this dish off the day before since flavors develop over time on braised dishes. I picked up a 4.5 lb bone-in pork shoulder, diced a tomato and half onion (shown in my little mini food processor container), three stalks of lemongrass outer leaves removed and tender middle chopped up (I reserved the tougher top portions for the braising liquid), a 2 inch piece of ginger chopped, 10 cloves of garlic chopped, the juice of 1 lime, three good pinches of sugar, about 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, and 15 or so cracks of black pepper. Everything except for the pork went into my little food processor and I turned it into a wet rub.

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I covered the pork shoulder with my marinade and let it sit in my large pot with the reserved lemongrass stalks for about an hour to let the juice start to penetrate the meat.

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Then I poured in about 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 1/4 cup of cooking sake, and then filled it with water till the liquid covered about 3/4’s of the shoulder. I brought it up to a boil then covered the pot and turned the heat to low. I let it simmer for about 6 hours. After it was done simmering I let it cool down a bit and then put it in my fridge to sit overnight.

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Yesterday afternoon I took it out of the fridge, scooped up the thin layer of fat that hardened on the surface, and took the shoulder out.

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I pulled the pork apart. Best way to do that is to just get your hands dirty. Let’s be honest here, is there anything wrong with having your hands smell like lemongrass pork? I think not. Speaking of lemongrass, I discarded the tough parts that were in the braise.

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I put the pulled pork back into the pot with the braising liquid and brought it back up to a boil.

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I let it boil down for about an hour to let a majority of the liquid evaporate. What you’re left with is a rich, flavorful heaping pile of swinealicious meat that drips down your hands as you slap it on a tortilla. Again, there’s nothing wrong with hands that smell like lemongrass pork.

I served these carnitas with cilantro, white rice, steamed bok choy, and sautéed chinese eggplant, green onion, and yellow bell pepper. Avocado would’ve been pretty good with them too. Topping them with diced tomato and onion wouldn’t be bad either.

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Ah yes, horse, the other red meat. You know, I’ve never understood why horse meat was off-limits in America. I mean, it’s an animal not all that dissimilar to deer or elk and we certainly have no problems eating them. Is it because we ride horses? Would you eat a cow if you rode it? I don’t know. I do know that many other places in the world do eat horse, and Japan is one of them. While it’s not a prominent animal in the extremely large, diverse, and interesting encyclopedia of animals consumed by the Japanese, it is featured in various areas where other meats might not be as readily available. As such, in places like Tokyo, there are restaurants dedicated to serving this animal on a platter rather than saddling it up for a gallop. The other night I finally got my first opportunity to enjoy the succulence of these animals when a friend of mine asked me if he could take me out for a horse. Not only is that the first time another man had ever asked me that questions, but that was a proposition I was only too happy to jump on. So, we headed out to the Ebisu district of Tokyo and headed to a place called Uma Yakiniku Takeshi. Uma is horse in Japanese, yakiniku is the style of grilling meat at your table, and Takeshi is the name of the proprietor of this establishment, he also happens to be a well-known Japanese comedian. Before I get to the food, one thing I love about Ebisu is that there are numerous interesting little izakaya’s serving up weird and exotic cuisine that you would never find unless you stumbled upon them. We ended up walking around for about 15 minutes before finding our destination.

When we sat down we were greeted with a cold glass of draft beer and some lightly pickled cucumbers with salted kombu. I’m not a big pickle or cucumber guy by any stretch of the imagination, but honestly, this wasn’t too bad at all. I even think my younger brother, he who has even stronger negative feelings toward pickled cucumbers than me, would eat this. At least he would if he was hungry enough to eat a horse.

We started off with horse tataki. Rolled in black pepper and lightly seared on all sides, this piece of meat (what part of the animal is still up for debate, but I think it’s the tenderloin) was covered with in thinly sliced onion and chopped scallions.

After a quick dip in ponzu (the horse meat, not me) here I am about to have my first taste in equestrian delights. MMMMMMMMMMMM! Honestly, it reminded me of kosher pastrami. I could throw this on some rye bread, slather on the mustard, and wash it down with a Dr Browns and be a happy man. Very delicious and surprisingly familiar to me. I had heard that horse tasted quite a bit like beef, but I think it’s a little more like bison as the muscles don’t have as much fat as cow does.

Next up was horse sashimi. Just think of this as beef carpaccio, except that it went nay instead of moo. A bit of fresh grated ginger and garlic, a splash in some tamari, and down the hatch. A little sweeter than beef, and much more tender than I expected. I can’t recall ever eating a beef carpaccio that I enjoyed as much.

Then we got the yakiniku going. The first plate had some napa cabbage, eggplant, the green part of the scallion, and, of course, some horse meat. This part of the animal comes from the belly/rib area. Think of it as thinly sliced ribeye.

Here’s our tabletop grill in full effect. I didn’t get a pic of it, but we each had a dish with three different dipping options for the grilled meat. There as a ponzu-based sauce that was my favorite, some sea salt, and some rice vinegar.

For the next cut of horse to be grilled my friend thought he’d throw me curveball, something I’d be hesitant to shove down my throat. He was wrong as it turned out to be one of the most delicious pieces of meat I’ve ever grilled yakiniku-style…the heart! I’m telling you, this was so tender and sweet, with a bit of black pepper it was heavenly! I’d jump a fence to get me some of this.

So good, the heart was (that’s my Yoda speak), that we had to get more on our next plate. Besides the heart and horse food (vegetables) this dish also had blood pipes. I don’t know if they were arteries or veins, but they were also delicious. A little rubbery, but after a few chews the clean flavor of the animal really came through. It was almost like eating thick intestines, but clean intestines. Very good indeed.

We put the grill aside after that and got a plate of horse weiner. No, not that kind of weiner, I don’t have that big of an appetite. This was a plate of weiner-style sausages. Again, a little sweet, but a very deep, rich flavor. It was also very juicy.

Our final dish was horse fried rice. With a little scrambled egg and some scallions this was a very typical fried rice, but with horse meat.

I have to say, Americans are a weird bunch. We shun so many different food items that the rest of the world consumes. As I write this blog it becomes clear to me that the reason we’ve not been exposed to things like horse as an edible creature is solely because of politics. If the beef lobby wasn’t so powerful I think we’d be eating all sorts of other animals…guinnea pig, various insects, horse, etc. It really is a delicious animal, and one that doesn’t contribute nearly as much to Climate Change as cows do. If we open our minds as well as our mouths, there’s a lot of tasty things out there we could enjoy. Mr Ed, sorry, but you are one delicious creature!

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Last night I made a simple burger out of ground pork and one of my usual marinades. To make it into a burger, I mixed the marinade into the meat for flavor and added some bread crumbs to help hold it together. Grilled up to perfection, these could also be pan-fried or even baked. But why when you can grill?

To make the burgers used about 1 inch of ginger grated, 3 garlic cloves grated, 3 green onions thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only), 1.25 lbs of ground pork, a few slices of bread ground into bread crumbs, 1.5 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sake, 1/2 tablespoon of mirin, and 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil.

I threw it all into a glass bowl and mixed it together, along with some black pepper, with a metal spoon until the flavors were evenly distributed throughout the meat. By using a metal spoon I avoided having the heat in my hands melt the fat. This helps keeps the burger juicy while it’s on the grill. Once mixed, I let the meat for about 10 minutes or so to let the flavors settle. Then, I formed 4 patties and set them aside, covered in the fridge, while I prepared the rest of dinner. To cook, I took them out about 20 minutes prior to grilling. I grilled them over medium high heat for about 8 minutes on each side. This allowed nice grill marks while keeping it juicy, yet cooked.

I made miso soup using 1/2 onion sliced, 3 shiitake sliced, 3 fingerling potatoes chopped, 7 leaves of nappa cabbage sliced, and 1.5 tablespoons of miso.

The other side I made was a simple veggie mix of 1/2 pound of snow peas, 5 small garlic cloves minced, 1/2 tablespoon of butter, a handful of bean sprouts, 1/2 orange bell pepper sliced, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.

I melted the butter in a skillet and then added the garlic. I let the garlic cook for about 30 seconds and then added the orange bell pepper. After the pepper had fried up a bit in the butter, about 5 minutes, I added the cabbage and let that cook down for another 5 minutes. In came the soy sauce with some black pepper. When the soy had cooked off, just a couple of minutes, I added the bean sprouts. The sprouts have enough water so that you don’t need to much soy. When it was all cooked down for a few more minutes it was ready.

Of course, we had white rice along for the ride.

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The other night Yuki made dinner. We had some bok choy and a daikon that needed to be used up, so Yuki did her magic in the kitchen while I sat back and drank beer. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did prep the veggies for her because I love to use knives!

I cleaned up 3 bok choy, minced 3 garlic cloves, skinned 1 daikon and one carrot, and got out 1 lb of ground chicken thigh. I let her cut the daikon and carrot because I wasn’t sure how she wanted them cut. She was too busy feeding Otis to tell me, so I just let her go at it. After getting everything ready she did ask me to dice 1/2 onion, that didn’t make the pic. She ended up cutting the daikon into half moons and just chopped the carrot.

I’m not exactly sure about some of the measurements, but I think she simmered 1/4 cup fo bonito flakes in about 2 cups of water to make a nice dashi.

In a glass bowl she mixed together the meat with the garlic and onion. She wanted some ginger, but we didn’t have any and I forgot to get some at the store. Mind you, she didn’t request that I get some, but somehow I think it’s my fault, it always is.

After letting the bonito flakes simmer for about 10-15 minutes she added the daikon and carrot. Then, she poured in about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sake, 1 tablespoon of mirin, and a pinch of sugar. Again, just estimates on her measurements, but probably not too far off.

While that was all simmering she cooked up about half of the chicken mixture. Once it was cooked through she mixed in about 1 cup of cooked rice and some black pepper, making sort of a fried rice. That was served as one dish.

She used the rest of the chicken mixture to make meatballs. They were dropped into the dashi after the daikon and carrot had simmered for about 15 minutes and became tender. Once the meatballs were cooked through, about 6 or 7 minutes, she added the bok choy and let it cook for a few minutes.

That was all she wrote, or cooked. It was mighty tasty. I love how she used an empty teabag to simmer the daikon. That way she didn’t have to strain the dashi, she just had to remove the bag. I got the fun job of trying to clean the bag afterwords so we can use it again. I prefer using my knives!

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This dinner I made the other night technically isn’t Sukiyaki. Nor is it really Bulgogi. However, it’s close enough to both of the dishes that I really couldn’t think of any other way to describe it. So to all of you purists out there…deal with it!

I made this dinner after taking Yuki’s parents to the Joong Boo Korean Market. None of us were sure what we were going to do, but Uichiro had asked that I cook something. When we got to the meat counter and he saw the thin sliced ribeye he got a sparkle in his eye, looked at me, and said, “can you make Bulgogi?” I can and I did!

A true Bulgogi has grated asian pear in the marinade. I didn’t have any asian pears so I improvised a little, but did keep relatively close to a classic Bulgogi. We had picked up almost a pound of the thin-sliced ribeye. I also used 4 green onions thinly sliced, about 1 tablespoon of minced ginger, 1 large garlic clove minced, 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, and some black pepper.

Before adding the meat to the marinade I gave it a real good mix and then tasted it. I decided to add about 1 tablespoon of sake and a good pinch of sugar. Then I added the meat and let it sit covered in the fridge for about an hour or so. For a marinade like this you should allow the meat to sit for at least 30 minutes, but not longer than 2 hours. If you let it sit too long the meat will absorb too much soy and become extremely salty.

While at the market we also picked up a few ready-made pickles. We got some classic cabbage kimchi, wilted water spinach, and mung bean sprouts.

If you look at the top pick of this post you’ll also see a little stir-fry on each plate. To add another dish to the meal Uichiro quickly whipped up this little number. It contained bacon, red bell pepper, haricots vert, bean sprouts, and eryngii mushrooms. Of course, we also had white rice.

To eat it I brought out our table-top propane burner and put a large skillet on top with a little bit of vegetable oil. Once heated up we just put pieces of the ribeye in to cook. Then, we took red leaf lettuce and wrapped everything up.

While Yuki and Tamiko had some beer with dinner, Uichiro and I enjoyed some sake.

Not only is table-top cooking a lot of fun, but meals like this are extremely healthy and flavorful. That nutrition is only enhanced by the mental healing properties of good cold sake!

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Uichiro, Yuki’s dad, makes a mean oyster gratin. Once a year one of Tamiko’s (Yuki’s mom) friends from her hometown of Miyagi in Japan (unfortunately not far from the recent earthquake, but fortunately everyone is alright, will be quite some time before the oyster population recovers though) sends her the famous oysters that she grew up on. A big container filled with the juiciest, most flavorful oysters you could imagine sinking your teeth into. Just so happens that I have timed a couple of my trips to Japan around oyster season. So, I’ve enjoyed Uichiro’s oyster gratin twice.

On to last night. While trying to decide what to have for dinner I remembered the oysters that I got at Whole Foods a while back that were freshly packaged. Nice big and juicy with great flavor. I asked Uichiro if he’d make his oyster gratin. He was happy to oblige but didn’t want to make the bechamel sauce. No worries, I happen to make a tasty bechamel.

At Whole Foods I noticed that they didn’t have the oysters I remembered in stock. All they had were oysters in the shell. It would’ve been a bit costly to buy the necessary amount to make gratin for 4. Improvisation is the key to cooking (life too), so we decided to get some of the beautiful shrimp behind the counter instead. Along with some chicken thigh we had the necessary fixens to make a classic gratin.

For the bechamel sauce I melted 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and then added 4 tablespoons of butter. I whisked it constantly for about  minutes until it became a dark golden color. Then I poured in 4 cups of hot milk and whisked that for 10 minutes giving it a nice thick consistency. Then I seasoned it with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. I set that aside.

Once I was done with the range Uichiro went to town on the rest of the ingredients. In some butter he lightly sautéed together about 1/2 pound of shrimp that he shelled and halved, 3 chopped skinless chicken thighs, 1/2 half large onion diced, 6-8 (not exactly sure how many) button mushrooms quartered, and some al dente macaroni (again, not exactly sure how much, but I think about 1/2 a package). He seasoned it all with salt and pepper and then mixed it in the bechamel sauce.

That all got poured into my ceramic baking dish. He topped it with some mozzarella and matzo meal. We didn’t have any panko, so again, we improvised. 35 minutes in a 400 degree oven, some parsley garnish, and it was ready to go.

Two things with this gratin. First, my bechamel, while extremely tasty, could’ve used another 3-5 minutes on the burner before letting it rest. A little bit thicker consistency would’ve been nice. Second, with oysters not used scallops would’ve been a little better than shrimp. Scallops are a lot more expensive though, so shrimp do a pretty good job, but scallops would be outstanding!

To balance out the heavy, creamy gratin Uichiro made this smoked salmon and onion dish. He thinly sliced a Vidalia onion and soaked it in cold water. He changed out the water 3 times squeezing the onions dry with each change. They were scattered all over a plate and then topped with thinly sliced smoked salmon. On to of the salmon went some thinly sliced lemon, including the rind with lends a nice bitterness to the overall flavor, not to mention a lot of nutrients the people usually waste by not eating the whole fruit. Then he scattered some chopped parsley all over the whole thing. I made a simple dressing to drizzle over the top. I whisked together 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and some black pepper until it emulsified.

Some sliced baguette and a cold beer completed the dinner. But, I still crave his oyster gratin!

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I try to make quinoa a regular in my diet, but don’t make it as often as I should. Being one of the world’s superfoods, as well as being relatively inexpensive, I think everyone should eat it at least a few times a month. I’m just waiting for the McQuinoa to show up on menus. Although, to get most Americans to eat it they’d probably have to use burger patties as the bun.

First thing I did was marinate the pork chops. I mixed together 2 tablespoons of sake, 1 tablespoon of mirin, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce,1/2 inch ginger grated, a large garlic clove grated, and some cracked black pepper. I turned the pork around in the marinade a few times to coat it entirely, then I covered it and set it in the fridge for about 2 hours. I turned it a couple of times while marinating. I also took it out about 30 minutes prior to grilling to bring it to room temperature, this ensures that it cooks more evenly.

For the quinoa I used 1 tablespoon of curry powder, 6 green onions sliced, 1 yellow bell pepper sliced, 2 garlic cloves minced, 1/2 inch of ginger minced, 1/3 of a small pumpkin (I just eye-balled how much I wanted to use, I have no idea how much it actually was), 1 cup of quinoa, and a couple large handfuls of baby spinach.

In a small sauce pan I brought 2 cups of water to a boil. While the water was getting hot, I heated up my medium pan and poured in about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. I threw in the pumpkin, bell pepper, and green onions. I let them saute for about 5 minutes and then added the garlic and ginger. While the garlic and ginger started to heat up, about a minute, I thoroughly rinsed the quinoa and then added it to the pan along with the curry powder, a touch of salt, and some black pepper. I stirred it around for about 3-4 minutes so that the quinoa would start to give off a slight nutty aroma. After that I poured in the boiling water, covered the pan, and let it simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. Once that 15 minutes was up I turned off the heat and let it rest for another 10 minutes.

While the quinoa was simmering I got the grill hot and grilled up the pork chops. It took about 5-6 minutes per side.

Just before serving I toasted my last piece of manakeesh from the Tannourine Bakery. I also fluffed up the quinoa with a fork and then mixed in the baby spinach.

If I were to make this recipe again I would do two things different. Instead of using 1 tablespoon curry powder I would use 1.5-2 tablespoons, or maybe a touch of cinnamon. I would also squeeze a lemon or lime into the quinoa as I stir in the spinach. The quinoa was good, just much more lightly flavored than I would have liked.

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Last night Yuki and I went to Millenium Park for another one of their Made In Chicago: World Class Jazz shows. Besides listening to some killer guitar by Alfonso Ponticelli we ate some killer skirt steak sandwiches that I made earlier in the day, along with some potato salad.

For the steak I took a big handful of cilantro, 1/4 cup of sesame oil, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of ginger, and two cloves of garlic. I processed it all into a nice marinade along with some black pepper. I picked up a 1.5 pound skirt steak and cut it into 4 equal pieces. I laid the steak in a glass baking dish and covered it in the marinade. I wrapped it in plastic and put it in the fridge for about 3 hours. I took it out and let it come to room temperature for about a half hour before grilling it.

I brought my grill up to high heat and grilled the steak for about 7 minutes on each side. That made it somewhere between medium-rare and medium. I let it sit for a few hours to cool down in its own juices while I went back to my computer to do some work.

For the potato salad I defrosted about 1/3 cup of frozen organic peas and chopped up a bunch of green onions, a carrot, 4 radishes, and 7 yukon gold potatoes that were skinned before getting chopped up. For the dressing I mixed together a branch of rosemary from my back porch that I gave the once over with my knife, 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons of mustard (my favorite brand of Boetje’s of course), and a pinch of salt and pepper.

In a pot of boiling water I dumped the skinned diced potatoes and let them cook for about 10 minutes until they were soft but held their shape (may take a little longer depending upon how big the chunks are). After 10 minutes I added the green onions, radishes, and carrot for about 2 minutes. I didn’t want to cook the vegetables, I just wanted to take away the sharpness and rawness of them while keeping the texture. Then I strained everything into a colander.

In a large glass bowl I put the peas and then strained vegetables and potatoes. While still warm I poured the dressing on top and stirred it all around. I like dressing it while still warm so that the potatoes absorb some of the dressing.

To put together the sandwiches I toasted some ciabatta rolls. On the bottom I laid some baby spinach and tomato slices. I sliced up two of the steak portions and laid them on top. I covered the steak with cilantro. On the top bun I spread some mustard and mayonnaise. It was outstanding!

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I just got the new Saveur issue the other day and it was all about Greek cuisine. This inspired me to make my own little Greek dinner last night. Since Yuki mentioned that I haven’t made pork tenderloin in a while and it was great weather to grill I put 2 and 2 together and came up with a delicious meal.

I got a beautiful 1.3 pound tenderloin. To marinade it I mixed together 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of red wine, the juice from 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, 4 garlic cloves minced and mashed into a paste, 1 bay leaf that I crumbled, and a decent amount of black pepper. I let it marinate in the fridge for about 3 hours and then at room temperature for another 2 hours. Every hour or so I flipped it around so that the marinade would penetrate evenly.

I made some spanakopita for a side. I melted 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan, sautéed 1/2 diced onion for about 6 minutes, then wilted down a 5 ounce package of baby spinach. I put that in a bowl, let it cool, then seasoned it with salt and pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 4 ounces of feta cheese.

Instead of the usual triangles I decided to make them into cigars. I cut some phyllo dough into about 5.5-6 inch strips. At one end I placed some of the spinach mix. Then I folded in the edges, rolled them up, and brushed them with olive oil. I got 5 cigars out of them. So I guess you can figure about 1 ounce of spinach for each one. I put them in a 375 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes. They burst open a little while cooking, I must have rolled them a little too tight. I guess I’m used to rolling other things. If you make these, don’t make them too tight.

While the spanakopita was cooking I grilled up the tenderloin along with a zucchini that I thinly sliced. I brushed the zucchini with olive oil prior to grilling. I did it over a medium heat for about 10 minutes on each side. I don’t like cooking tenderloin all the way through like a chop, that kills the soft texture. If you have a good fresh piece of meat there should be no worry about trichinosis with a tenderloin as there isn’t much fat for the little buggers to hide in. Also, drinking alcohol helps (it helps a lot of things!). Oh, I also sprinkled some salt on both sides of the tenderloin before grilling as well. I don’t like salting marinades because that draws the moisture out of the meat. It’s best to salt just before cooking.

While the meat was grilling I boiled down the marinade to make a quick sauce. I also made some orzo with cherry tomatoes and rosemary. I simply boiled 3/4 cup of orzo in salted water according to package instructions. After draining it, I tossed it in a bowl with a handful of halved cherry tomatoes and one sprig of rosemary that was given the once-over with my knife. A little salt, pepper, and olive oil and my starch was good to go.

Last thing, I let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing it. That gave it time for the juice to chill out and redistribute. If meat doesn’t rest after cooking the juice will run out and your meat will go dry. No one wants dry meat. A little juice goes a long way!

PS- This came out to 3 portions instead of my usual 4. I had lunch plans today, so I didn’t need lunch for myself.

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Alright, so I’ve been working on perfecting a hamburger that tastes like a bowl of Pho for a while now so that I could enter it into a contest that has a nice payout for the winner (wish me luck everyone!). I think I finally nailed it Saturday night. Here’s how it all goes down.

Instead of using regular old ground chuck I picked up a 2 pound brisket. Pho commonly uses brisket or rump, so I wanted to get that type of beefy flavor for these burgers. You could have your butcher grind it up for you, but what’s the fun in that? I don’t have a meat grinder (anyone seeking to get me a gift for whatever reason take note, I would gladly accept a meat grinder) but that didn’t stop me from giving it a go.

First thing I did was cut the brisket up into 1 inch cubes. I threw all of the meat into my food processor and pulsed it until it turned in the consistency I was looking for. I had to be careful not to over process it as that would start to melt the fat and ruin the texture. Then I put the meat in a bowl and prepared all of the seasonings.

The spice mix included ground cloves, cardamom, ground cinnamon, star anise, and coriander seeds.

With my pestle and mortar I first had to grind up the whole seeds. I took enough seeds out of the star anise to measure about 1/4 teaspoon (cracking out the seeds is a pain!). Then I cracked open enough cardamom pods to get me 1/4 teaspoon of its seeds. I also measured about 3/4 teaspoon of coriander seeds. I ground those up into a fine powder and then added 1/2 teaspoon each of the ground cinnamon and ground cloves. I also mixed in there 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and 1 teaspoon of pure cane sugar.

Once my dry spices were mixed together I zested a lime to get about 1 tablespoon, and I minced up 1 tablespoon of ginger and 1 tablespoon of garlic.

I also sliced up 4 green onions, just the white and pale green parts.

I put all of my seasonings in the bowl with the meat and then added 2 tablespoons each of fish sauce and sesame oil. With a metal spoon I mixed it all together until the flavors were evenly distributed. It’s important to use a metal spoon when mixing things into burger meat. When you use your hands the body heat can melt the fat, you don’t want that. You want the fat to mix in just like the other ingredients so that it melts properly when cooking keeping the meat nice and juicy.

After the meat was mixed nicely I let it rest for about 10 minutes to let the flavors settle in. Then, I wetted my hands and formed 6 patties.

I heated the grill up to a medium-high heat, brushed it off, and oiled it. Just before putting the burgers on I lightly salted both sides of the patties. With the fish sauce there’s no need for a lot of salt, but sprinkling a little on just before grilling helps get a nice crust on the outside of the meat. I let the cook for about 6 minutes or so on each side.

When the burgers were cooked to my liking I put some sesame seed buns on the grill to lightly toast them. That only took a minute.

To assemble the burgers I placed one grilled patty on each bottom bun and squeezed one wedge of lime on each patty. On top of each patty placed 1 ounce bean sprouts, then 3 basil leaves and 3 cilantro sprigs. 1 tablespoon of Sriracha got squeezed on the underside of each top half of bun and they were ready to go.

For the side Yuki wanted to make Japanese-style potato salad. She skinned and diced two large russet potatoes and then tossed them into boiling water. She let them boil for about 15 minutes until they were cooked through. Then she mashed them up with enough mayonnaise to keep them nice and moist and a little mustard for flavor. She mixed in a cucumber that she skinned and chopped up, a carrot that she also chopped up, and some black forest ham that she cut into short slivers. That all got mixed together well and provided a nice cool counterpoint to the spicy burgers.

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