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Posts Tagged ‘lemongrass’

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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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This past Friday night I made a rice noodle soup with some really nice shrimp I picked up. Being a Friday night dinner, this is a 2 person recipe as opposed to my normal 4 person.

First I had to make a broth. To do that I used the shells from my shrimp (I had 10 shrimp that I shelled and butterflied), 1 stick of lemongrass cut in half both in length and width then bashed up with the back of my knife to release the oils, 1 inch of ginger sliced, 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, 3 cloves of star anise, and 1/2 tablespoon of whole coriander seeds.

I heated my pan up and added the shrimp shells dry. I let them cook, tossing them around, for about 6 minutes or so until they turned pink. As they do so they release some of their oils. While the pan was still dry I added the pepper corns and coriander and let them toast for a minute.

Then I poured in 2.5 cups of hot water while scraping up the little pieces of shell that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once the water came up to a slight boil I added the lemongrass, ginger, and cloves. I covered the pan, turned the heat to med-low, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. I strained the broth into a clean pan and set it aside while I prepped my veggies.

Along with my shrimp, the veggies included 1/2 a red bell pepper sliced, 3 shiitake sliced, 6 asparagus chopped, 1 tomato cut into 6 wedges, about 2 ounces of bean sprouts, and a bunch of green onions sliced.

I brought the broth back up to a slow boil and added everything except for the shrimp, tomato, and bean sprouts. I covered it back up and let it simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Then I added the shrimp and tomato and let it go for another 4 minutes, just until the shrimp were cooked and turned pink. Finally, I added the bean sprouts and then turned off the heat about minute after that.

While this was going on I boiled some water in a large stock pot and cooked my rice noodles according to package instructions.

To put it together I simply placed the noodles in the bottom of a bowl and ladled the soup along with shrimp and vegetables on top. I garnished with a squeeze of sriracha, 1/2 an avocado diced, some lime juice, and chopped cilantro.

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Stanley’s had these cute little Boston Lettuce heads for sale. The leaves looked perfect to make a wrap with. Then I remembered talking to Yuki about how we haven’t had ginger pork in a while, actually her craving for it. Sometimes I get it. Not often, but this time I did. What better way to put some ginger and pork together than in the buttery leaves of some fresh Boston Lettuce?

Laap is simply a Laotian ground meat dish. I can either be raw or cooked. This one is more of a Southeast Asian flavor instead of a typical laap. I used a handful of parsley chopped (cilantro would have been prefered, but I had to use up my parsley), 7 shiitake caps diced, 1 yellow bell pepper diced, 2 stalks of lemongrass tender innards thinly sliced, juice of 1 lemon (prefer lime but thought lemon would match parsley better), 1/2 inch ginger minced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 6 green onions sliced, 1 head of Boston Lettuce large outer leaves used for wraps while the small inner leaves were chopped up, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of sriracha, and 1.25 pounds of ground pork. I also used 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, but that wasn’t in the picture.

I heated up some vegetable oil and added the lemongrass, ginger, and garlic. I let them sizzle for about a minute and then added the pork. I broke the pork up as it cooked through, that took about 5 minutes. Then I added the shiitake, pepper, and green onion. I let those cooked down for about 3 minutes and then added the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sriracha. After the sauces cooked down for a few minutes I turned off the heat and stirred in the parsley, lemon juice, and sesame oil.  

For side vegetables planned on sauteing some baby eggplant and broccoli with garlic, but for some reason I ended up quartering the eggplant and roasting it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes in sesame oil while steaming the broccoli with ground sesame seeds. I didn’t use the garlic.

The rice I made was Japanese style. Not really the best match, but not bad. In the rice cooker, once I rinsed 2 cups of rice and filled the bowl with the right amount of water I added 1 diced carrot and a few pinches of dried hijiki seaweed. I let it sit for about a half hour before turning the machine on. I made sure to mix the carrots and hijiki in well before serving.

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I needed to use up the rest of the coconut milk I had from the other night so I decided to use it as a marinade for some chicken. I really wanted to grill the chicken, but the wind kept putting out my burner, one of the downfalls of a gas grill. If I ever have a metal balcony instead of a wood one I’m getting me one of those big green egg grills! No worries though, I just threw the chicken in the oven as that sure beats raw poultry.

For the marinade I had about 1/2 cup left of the coconut milk. I poured it into my blender and added two chopped up lemongrass stalks (just the non-fibrous center), 2 tablespoons of sriracha, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 garlic clove, and 1 tablespoon of ginger. I blended it all up and poured it over 2 pounds of skin-on bone-in chicken thighs. Prior to pouring the marinade over I did score the skin with three slashes so that the marinade would penetrate the skin nicely. I covered it and let it sit in the fridge for about 4 hours. I took it out about 45 minutes prior to cooking and cracked a little black pepper on top just before going under the heat.

 

Since the wind didn’t cooperate with me last night I heated my oven to 425 degrees and cooked the chicken on the upper 3rd for about 15 minutes. Then, I turned the oven to the broiler setting and let the skin get nice and crisp for about 5 more minutes.

For my side I made some Thai flavored asparagus. For the flavoring I used 1 teaspoon of cane sugar, 1 inch of ginger cut into slivers, 1/3 red bell pepper small diced, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 3 cloves of garlic minced (didn’t make it into the pic) and 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds. First, I mixed together the sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and 3 tablespoons of water. I set that aside.

In a skillet large enough to handle the asparagus in one layer I heated up 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and added the garlic, ginger, and sesame seeds. I let them sizzle for about a minute or two and then added the asparagus and red pepper. I rolled it around to make sure the asparagus was completely coated with all of the flavors. After 4 or 5 minutes I poured in the liquid and let that boil off for about 3 minutes. That’s all I did for this side.

I also made some miso soup. In a pot I poured in about 4-5 cups of water and brought it to a boil with 1/2 an onion sliced, the rest of my shiitake sliced, and a few pinches of dashi-no-moto. I let it boil for about 15 minutes until the onion was softened. Then I threw in a large handful of baby spinach and let that boil for another few minutes. Finally, I took two large tablespoons of shiro miso and mixed that in.

Besides the asparagus and miso soup I served some Thai Red Rice instead of regular white rice.

While this was one of the tastiest marinades I’ve whipped up in a while I did forget two things. I wanted to squeeze some lemon juice on the chicken as soon as I took it out of the oven and I wanted to garnish with some cilantro. I guess I’ll use that lemon and cilantro some other time.

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When I went up to Sun Wah B.B.Q. for dinner the other night I took advantage of it being close to the Golden Pacific Market. I love that place, but hardly ever get up there since it’s so far away. I brought my cooler with me and loaded up on some goodies. A good portion of those goodies ended up in my Meatless Monday last night. In fact, I got the fried tofu specifically for it. I luz me sum fried tofu!

Before making the Thai Curry I put together some Thai flavored samosas. I had two red creamer potatoes and got a yukon gold (out of red creamers) that I skinned and diced, a lime that I zested and juiced half of, some egg roll wrappers (you can find samosa wrappers at some grocers or cut down some phylo, but I wanted smaller samosas so I cut some egg roll wrappers in half), 5 tablespoons of coconut milk (first thing I did was scoop the cream that settles on the top off and reserve that for the curry), 1 tablespoon of minced ginger, and one small shallot diced. What I forgot to get in the photo was about 1/4 cup of frozen peas that I thawed.

The first thing I did was boil the diced potatoes for about 15 minutes. Then I drained them while I heated up my pan and poured about 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in. I cooked the ginger and shallot over medium heat for about 4 minutes, just until they softened. Then I dropped the potatoes in along with the peas and coconut milk. I lightly mashed that all together with the back of a wooden spoon. I seasoned with salt and pepper and dumped in the lime zest and juice. I stirred that all together and let it cool, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Once the potato mixture was cool enough to handle I wrapped them up. I placed a spoonful at one end and proceeded to fold it up like a flag, leaving a little flap at the end.

I brushed the little flap with some peanut oil so it would seal together.

I lightly oiled a baking sheet with peanut oil and brushed the samosas all over with more peanut oil. They went into a 425 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, just until they became a nice golden brown color.

While the samosas were baking I put together the curry. In the red bowl is the coconut cream from the can of coconut milk (this not only is used for flavor, but I used it as my oil so there was no need for additional oil), 8 green onions chopped, 1 chinese eggplant chopped, 1 red bell pepper chopped, 1 large shallot minced, 2 tablespoons of ginger minced, the other half of my lime juiced, 3/4 cup of vegetable broth, 4 oz shiitake quartered, 1 package of fried tofu diced, 1 tablespoon of Thai Red Curry Paste, 5 baby bok choy, and two stalks of lemongrass finely chopped.

In my hot pan I added the coconut cream. About a minute later, once it started to lightly bubble, I added the curry paste (along with 1 tablespoon of fish sauce that didn’t make it into the photo) and mixed it all together to make a smooth cream. I added the shallot, lemongrass, and ginger to that and let them cook for about 2 minutes before adding the pepper, eggplant, shiitake, and green onions. Once all of the vegetables were coated with the thick sauce I let it all cook for about 6 minutes. Then I poured in the vegetable broth. When the broth started to boil I added the tofu and let that heat through for about 3 minutes. After that I threw in the baby bok choy. I covered the pan and let everything cook for about 4-5 minutes. When it was all heated through and the baby bok choy slightly wilted I turned off the heat and stirred in the lime juice.

I served the curry next to some white rice and garnished it with some cilantro.

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I was at the store the other day unsure of what I wanted to make for dinner. I saw some beautiful fresh lemongrass stalks I immediately knew that dinner was going to be lemongrass chicken. I’ve made lemongrass chicken a hundred different ways before, and the possibilities to make it are endless, so I just kept looking at what looked fresh and built my dinner from there.

I grabbed a yellow bell pepper, just shy of 1 pound of skinless/boneless chicken thighs, a jalapeno, 4 garlic cloves, a piece of ginger, two lemongrass stalks, some shiitake mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, a carrot, and some green onions. The pepper got chopped up, the chicken thighs cut down into bite sized pieces, the jalapeno diced, the ginger and garlic minced, I removed the outer layers of the lemongrass and sliced up the soft white inner part, I sliced up 6 of the shiitake, halved 12 tomatoes, and chopped up the carrot and 6 green onions.

In a hot pan I poured in 1 tablespoon each of soy oil and sesame oil and then tossed in the ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. I let the go for about a minute until they became very fragrant. Then I added the green onions and carrots. About 3 minutes later I tossed in the bell pepper and jalapeno. I let that all cook for about 6 minutes before adding some salt and pepper. Then I added the chicken. That took about 6 minutes to cook almost completely. About 1 tablespoon of fish sauce went in to add that distinctive Southeast Asian aroma and flavor. After the fish sauce cooked for a couple of minutes I added the shiitake. About 4 minutes later the tomatoes went in. I let everything come together for about 3 minutes and turned off the heat.

To serve, I put some white rice on one corner of the plate and then fanned out a half avocado on the other half. I put the lemongrass chicken down the middle. For garnish I tore up some cilantro. There was enough leftovers for Yuki’s lunch yesterday, so this was a 3 portion recipe.

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For Meatless Monday last night I made a Cambodian-style noodle soup. It’s very similar to Vietnamese Pho, but the broth is slightly different. Pho usually has star anise and cinnamon in the broth, I didn’t use either of those. Stylistically though, their very similar. And why not? They are neighboring countries after all.

To get the Cambodian flavor I used ginger and lemongrass. I left the skin on the ginger and the tough outer layers of the lemongrass in tact. The ginger was sliced and those marks you see on the lemongrass are from banging it with the back of my knife. That loosens up the fibers and helps release the oils.

I put them in a sauce pan along with 1 quart of vegetable stock, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1 cup of water, and a lot of fresh cracked white pepper. I brought that all to a boil and let the flavors steep for about 20 minutes. Then I strained the broth into a large bowl and let it sit until later on in the cooking.

My ingredient list included bean sprouts, enoki mushrooms (not Cambodian, but nevertheless delicious and healthy), fresh made tofu from the HMart that I cubed, ginger and garlic that I minced, asparagus that I cut up (again, not Cambodian), half of an eggplant diced, green onions that were sliced about 2 inches in length, and rice noodles.

I started by heating up about 1/4 cup of soy oil and a few tablespoons of sesame oil. I let the ginger and garlic go until they were fragrant, about 1 minute, then added the green onion and asparagus. Once they started to slightly soften I added the eggplant. That took about 5 minutes until it was mostly cooked through. Then I added the tofu and enoki. Those both heat through relatively quickly, about 2 minutes. After all of those vegetables were heated I poured the broth in and let it come to a boil, then turned the heat down and let it simmer, covered, for only about 5 minutes.

During that time I cooked the noodles according to package instructions. Once cooked through I drained them thoroughly and divided them up into the serving bowls and ladled the soup on top. I topped all of that with the bean sprouts, some cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.

Half-way through eating I realized that something was missing….SRIRACHA!!! I took my sriracha out, squeezed a little into the broth, and all was good.

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Back during Chef Week a few weeks ago Yuki and I went to Spring for dinner. We have both been there before, so we pretty much knew that a $30 pre fix there would be well worth the dollar. We were right, as usual.

I do apologize, the pics I took with my phone were absolutely terrible! You’re going to have to use your imagination if TV, cinema, and the internet haven’t already sapped you of it.

When we got there our table wasn’t quite ready. No worries, we went to the bar and ordered a bottle of wine. Within a few sips we were seated. The first thing I remembered about the tables is that, unlike a lot of restaurants (and I mean you Paul Kahan!), there is more than ample space. The only conversation I heard was ours, my elbows weren’t banging into anyone, and there was no chance of an accidental ass-to-the-face of the person next to me when one of us got up. It is definitely a more romantic atmosphere.

We started with one each of the two appetizers. A smooth lemongrass-cocunut soup with prawn dumplings, thai chili, shaved shiitake, and kaffir lime. As well as a tuna and hamachi maki roll. The soup was outstanding, and while the maki was good, it was very basic. It could have been from a good sushi restaurant instead of a place like Spring.

We both got the skatewing. It was lightly floured and pan-fried to perfection. The natural sweetness of the fish was perfectly matched with light gnocchi that was flavored with kimchi as well as some Brussel sprouts and almonds. Skatewing is not a fish that I get to eat very often, so it was a nice change from salmon, tuna, or halibut, the typical fish found on menus.

For dessert, we ordered one of each. There was lemon sorbet served in a black tea. The sorbet was slightly sour, but not to the point that made your lips pucker. I guess lemons aren’t quite in season yet, they’ll get sweeter in a month or two. The other dessert was a delicious moist brown butter pound cake with caramel ice cream.

Service was quick and attentive. I never felt rushed, but never ignored either.

Overall, Spring was just as good as I remembered. It’s one of Chicago’s best seafood restaurants and Chef McClain is one of Chicago’s finest chefs and restauranteurs.

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A good buddy of mine, Jason Meyer, gave us a couple of tables he made a while back. He’s a very talented sculptor/furniture maker/badass dancer that I used to work with at Bin36 back in the day. In order to show gratitude Yuki and I invited he and his fiancée over for dinner the other night. We figured that he gave us something that he made so we should do the same.

We started off with some Lemongrass Corn Soup with Avocado garnish. The soup was actually purchased and I didn’t make it (shhh, don’t tell Jason). It did taste exactly like something I would make though. Had I made it I would have simmered some corn and onion in vegetable stock with some lemongrass until the kernels were nice and soft. Then I would have discarded the lemongrass and blended the rest of the ingredients until smooth and strained it back into the pot. A little salt and pepper and there you go. I did make the rest of the meal. Well, that’s not entirely true as Yuki did some of it.

Then I served a simple salad. Mixed greens with cherry tomatoes and a sesame vinaigrette. Vinaigrettes are easy to make. This one had soy sauce, sesame oil, a touch of rice wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Next was the main course. I went to Olympic Meats for some good strip steaks. The steaks were pan-fried in nothing but olive oil. No salt or pepper added. Once I got a nice seer on each side and they were cooked about medium rare or so I put them on plate to rest. While they were resting I doused them with a sauce I had made. The sauce consisted of grated ginger and garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, red pepper flakes, and pepper. No salt since there was plenty of soy. I made the sauce way in advance to let the rawness of the ginger and garlic mellow out a little in the lime juice. By pouring it on the steaks while they rested it allowed the flavors infuse into the meat and keep them nice and juicy. I served the steaks on top of baby spinach with roasted yellow peppers and shiitake.

On the side was some hijiki rice that Yuki made. In the rice cooker she added to the rice some diced carrot, hijiki seaweed, cooking sake, soy, and konbu dashi. It’s one of my favorites as hijiki adds a wonderful flavor to almost anything. Plus, it’s extremely healthy as most seaweed is.

For dessert I made some Mexican Chocolate Pots de Cremes. What better to follow Asian flavors than Mexican chocolate? I made these the day before to let them set in the fridge overnight. I used egg yolks, heavy cream, whole milk, Mexican chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate. You first have to heat the cream and milk without boiling it, just a slow simmer for a few minutes. Then you incorporate the egg yolks, beaten, very slowly constantly mixing so that the eggs don’t scramble. Once it’s thick enough to coat the back of the spoon add the chocolates in pieces so that they melt completely. Once you have a nice smooth thick custard pour it into your serving dishes, cover, and chill for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight. To serve, I sliced some strawberries and added a little whipped cream.

Jason brought a bottle of Prosecco that we enjoyed with the soup and salad. After that we opened up a special bottle of Sake that we brought back from our last trip to Japan. Everything worked out extremely well. Portions were perfectly sized as none of us were hungry afterwords yet we weren’t stuffed either. I hope they enjoyed because it would be a disaster if I had to make them a table!

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Being an atheist Jew who doesn’t celebrate the birth of fictional characters I always end up at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas day. I know that Saturday Night Live had their famous skit about Jews going to Chinese joints on Christmas, but it’s only funny because it’s true. Buddhists share the lack of blind faith in Jesus that we do. Plus, with every other restaurant and grocery store closed someone has to make money on this capitalist holiday!

I did countless research to find something new and interesting as Chinatown (other than Cafe Hoang) is really nothing special. Every website had Lao Szechuan and Phoenix as the best places in Chinatown. Honestly, neither of them excite me at all. They’re ok, but nothing special. One thing New Yorkers truly can claim is far superior chinese food than Chicago (I don’t buy their claims of having better pizza or hot dogs, oh, they do also have better bagels though).

Then I came across Han 202. A little 36 seat restaurant in the Bridgeport neighborhood, 605 W 31st street. They do 5 course meals for only $20! When I read that Phil Vettel, he of the Tribune’s food critiques, enjoyed his visits there I thought it would be better than typical greasy chinese stir-fry. It was!

I started with the Spicy King Crab Miso Soup. A basic miso soup with real crab meat and some spicy bean paste added. It wasn’t en fuego spicy, but it had a nice little heat to jump-start my taste buds.

After that I got the Green Apple Salad. Julienned granny smiths tossed in a mix of olive oil and truffle oil with just a hint of fish sauce. There were also a few capers for saltiness and some red peppercorns for a little bite.

Yuki got the Lemongrass Beef salad which turned out to be the exact same as mine but with extremely tender slices of lemongrass beef on top. Had I known they were the same salad but with the beef I would have ordered this since beef is my favorite vegetable. Oh well, what can you do?

For the appetizer course I ordered the Salt and Pepper Calamari. Deep fried slices of squid with diced jalapeno and green onions. The squid was cooked to perfection, nice and tender without any rubberiness (is that a word?). My only complaint would be that it was a little too salty, but with salt in the dish’s name I guess that was to be expected.

For my entrée I ordered the Duck Breast in Sichuan Hot Bean Sauce. This was the only dish that truly had an authentic Chinese aroma to it, so good! The duck was a perfect medium rare. I would have liked for the skin to be a little crispier, but I can’t complain since it was otherwise cooked the way a good duck breast outta be cooked. The sauce had a nice little tinge of spice. There was sliced bell pepper, green onion, carrot, some sort of chinese green, and some diced pineapple for a little sweetness. It was a very well-balanced sauce that matched beautifully with the duck. A really nice modern take on a classic chinese dish.

Dessert was vanilla ice cream with some mango-tomato sorbet on top. The ice cream was nice and smooth while the sorbet added a nice flavor to the spoon.

Overall, I find Han 202 to be one of Chicago’s absolute best values. Besides my enjoyment of the food, Yuki also had only positive things to say about her Scallop and Lamb Chops. Our friend who joined us also enjoyed her Tuna and Strip Steak. Having sampled everything, I have to agree with their assessments as well. We walked out fully satisfied but not overly stuffed. They could have easily charged us $35 per person (I’m glad they didn’t) and I still would have been satisfied.

They’re also BYOB, which cuts the cost of dining. No corkage fee and they kept our beer in the cooler for us. They also have nice pint glasses.

Next time you’re in the mood for some good Chinese food head south of Chinatown for an updated take on not only classic Chinese flavors, but also extremely reasonably priced pre-fix.

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