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Carnitas…the mere thought of that word brings tingles to my tongue. Bits of juicy, yet crisp little pork pieces topped with cilantro, onion, and salsa, then wrapped up in a warm blanket of corn tortilla. I, myself enjoy being wrapped in a warm blanket of corn tortilla. However, as much as I enjoy that, I far prefer to stuff my face with carnitas. When my buddy Nick invited us, as a few others, over for some homemade, backyard carnitas there was absolutely no way to turn down an offer like that. To say I jumped at the chance wouldn’t be quite accurate, but it was something along those lines.

To do carnitas the kind of justice they deserve, you have to use lard. Pure, creamy white, rendered pork fat. What better way to bring out the flavor of pork than with the flavor of pork? No double-negative here, just heart-stopping bliss. Nick picked up, I think 6 lbs of lard? Maybe it was 5. Whatever it was, he wasn’t screwing around.

He brought the big pot from his turkey fryer in to his kitchen and scooped all of that lard right in. I didn’t look like much while it was solid, but looks can sometimes be deceiving.

He rigged the fryer up to the propane tank on the concrete section of his backyard, lit that sucker up, and let that lard melt down into a 275 degrees pork hot tub. As he told me, the trick is not to deep-fry, but to keep it at 275 and let it simmer in the lard for about an hour or so. That’s how you get the nice golden crust with the juicy center. If the oil’s too hot, the outside will burn before the middle is cooked.

Look at that! Approximately 5 lbs of pink, fat-strewn hog heaven. How can you not want to maul that down with some cilantro? Nick sliced the chunks about half way through to give more surface area to brown in hot lard. That means more flavor!

One by one he carefully lowered each piece into the hot lard. (Hot Lard, that’d be a great band name)

No stranger to greasy knuckles (that’d be another great band name), he constantly checked the temperature with his handy frying glove. Like I said before, he wasn’t screwing around. He takes his lard simmering seriously, as he should.

You’re eyes are not playing tricks on you, this does look delicious!

After about an hour he took the pork out. He tented it in foil while getting the tortillas steamed. This allowed all of the juices to re-distribute throughout the meat.

Once the onions and cilantro were chopped, salsa (his was home-made, I think chipotle, not sure but definatley some sort of roasted and dryed chili) poured into serving dish, and tortillas nice and warm, he shredded the pork and we proceeded to carnitas like we’ve never carnitas’d before.

I wish I had a turkey fryer now. These were so tasty all I can do is wait until he decides to buy more lard. Until then, fond memories will have to suffice.

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Alright, so a month ago Yuki, Otis, and I moved in with my little brother for a couple of weeks in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. A friend of ours, who happens to be a major burger whore, helped us move. Since he’s a burger whore, what better payment then a burger? While moving he had mentioned how he tried to get a table at The Bad Apple once, but the wait was too long. I made a mental note, did some research, and concluded that this was definitely a place I wanted to check out as well. So, I strolled Otis over before Yuki and Eric (the burger whore) got out of work and grabbed an outside table. My little brother came with to have a beer with me while we waited for everyone else.

The beer list is one of the best in town. Both the draft and bottle list are enormous with great variety. Wanting to try something I’ve never had I explained the flavors I was in the mood for to our server and she brought me out an IPA that I’ve never heard of, but thoroughly enjoyed. It ticked everything I had asked for in a beer at that very moment. What I’m trying to say is that their servers, at least ours, are very knowledgable about the libations the offer up.

But, I did not come to The Bad Apple for beer, as much as I love beer. I came for the burgers. So, without further ado, here’s the burger breakdown from that night.

Eric’s wife went for The Bad Apple Burger, deciding to keep it simple. I can respect that. In all honesty, someone had to get their house burger just to see what they do before screwing around with various flavors. With lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and provolone this burger had no frills about it. It was a straight-talkin burger if ever there was one. While I didn’t try it myself, the fact that it was devoured tells me she enjoyed having those classic flavors grace her taste buds.

Yuki got the Red Dragon. A juicy burger topped with brisket hash, an over easy egg, pepper jack, and roasted red pepper sauce. You put roasted red pepper sauce on just about anything and Yuki will go for it. That’s how I was able to snatch her, but that’s a totally different story for a completely different blog. I did try this one, and I gotta say, wow! I mean, this would’ve been great without the burger. Add that patty of bovine deliciousness to a classic hang-over breakfast and you have yourself a winner.

Eric got the Belly Burger. Honestly, I almost got this one, it was a tough decision. When he said he was going to get this one it made my life easier. This burger is topped with braised pork belly and a herbed horseradish sauce. Instead of a regular bun this one has a pretzel bun. We expected just a little pork belly on top to add a little sumptuousness to this thing, but oh no, they put as much pork belly as there was beef! Let’s be honest here, you put burger with pork belly, what else do you really need? That is, besides a cold refreshing beer from their list.

As good as Eric’s Belly Burger was, and it was damn good, I’m very glad he chose to get that one because it allowed me to get the Elvis’s Last Supper. This burger broke all of the rules for me. It’s really a simple burger. You take ground beef, grill it to juicy perfection and place it on a bun with 2 toppings. It’s the 2 toppings that make this such a revelation…peanut butter and bacon! You read that right, peanut butter and bacon. The bacon part is nothing new to a burger. It’s been done to death, yet is always welcome. Kind of like when the radio plays “Stairway to Heaven”. You’ve heard it hundreds of times, but you don’t change the station, you rock out and enjoy every minute of it. But peanut butter? On a burger? In all of my years I never would have thought of that. Mind you, this was no Jiff creamy, not even close. This was house made, throw some roasted peanuts into a blender, and let ‘er rip! Chunky and oily, this was peanut butter! I’m still besides myself on that one. It is hands down the best burger I have ever ordered off a menu and right up there with the best burgers I’ve eaten period (my famous ghetto burger not-withstanding). I’m salivating as I type this. My stomach is rumbling for more. I imagine a balding gray-haired man with a long white coat in the kitchen concocting burger theories, picture Doc Brown. Truly genius!

As you can tell, I am a big fan of The Bad Apple. Besides a great beer list, knowledgable service, and flippin fantastic burgers with creative toppings and high quality ingredients, the prices are extremely reasonable. Other than their special Wagyu burger (upwards of $45 per depending on toppings du jour) all burgers are $8-10!

If you’re a fan of burgers and beer, get yo tuchas out to The Bad Apple!

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Last night was the perfect night to grill up some juicy pork tenderloin. I’m not one to waste an opportunity like that, especially with a bunch of rain in the near future forecast. So, that’s exactly what I did, I grilled up some juicy pork tenderloin.

I made a simple marinade using 2 garlic cloves minced, 3 green onions thinly sliced, the juice from 1/2 lemon, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sake, 1 tablespoon mirin, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1.25 pounds of pork tenderloin. Before letting the pork take a dip in the marinade I stabbed it all over with my knife to allow the marinade more easy access to the juicy center. I covered it and let it sit in the fridge for about 2 hours, taking it out about 30 minutes before grilling.

For my veggies I used 1 red bell pepper chopped, 1 clove garlic minced, 1/2 onion chopped, 3 fingerling potatoes chopped, 1 head of broccoli, 5 shiitake chopped, 1 tablespoon butter, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. I also used the juice from the other half of the lemon, but forgot to get that in the pic.

I melted the butter in a hot pan and then fried the potatoes in it for about 10 minutes till they were a bit crisp on all sides. Then, I added the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. I let them sweat down for about 6 minutes. After that, I added the shiitake and broccoli and let everything cook for about 7 more minutes. In came the soy sauce, then the lemon juice along with some cracked black pepper, and then I served it up.

While the veggies were cooking I grilled up the pork. On my grill, each grill is different, tenderloin cooks best on the top rack with the heat at med-high. I can leave the pork for about 10 minutes each side leaving it just slightly pink in the middle, the way fresh tenderloin should be. I let it rest for 10 minutes and then sliced it up.

Of course, white rice was on the side.

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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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Yuki had requested beef for dinner last night. Who am I to argue with that kind of insightful reasoning? It was a nice night to grill before the brief storm hit, so I picked up my favorite piece of beef to grill…skirt steak. I made an Asian flavored dinner out of it with miso soup, white rice, and quick pickles.

I marinated a 1lb steak for about 1.5 hours at room temperature. The marinade made by mixing together 3 cloves garlic grated, 1 tablespoon ginger grated, 6 green onions thinly sliced, 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper, 1.5 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1/2 cup of soy sauce. After mixing together the marinade, I let it sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld before covering the steak in it. I covered everything in plastic wrap and then let it sit while I prepared the rest of dinner.

One of the pickles I made was a Korean-style daikon sangchae. Instead of using Korean chili I used Japanese shichimi togarashi instead though. I used about 8oz daikon cut into thin match-sticks, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon shichimi togarashi, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

I mixed all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl and then stirred the daikon in. I covered the bowl with wrap and left it in the fridge until dinner time.

The other pickle I made was a Korean cucumber namul. I used 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 3 mini cucumbers thinly sliced on my mandolin, 1 green onion thinly sliced, 1 garlic clove minced, 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon canola oil.

I laid the cucumber slices in a colander, sprinkled them with salt, and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Then I gave them a good rinse and squeezed out the excess liquid.

In a hot skillet I poured in the canola oil and then quickly stir-fried the garlic, green onion, and cucumbers, only for about 45 seconds to a minute. I removed the skillet from the heat and then added the sesame oil and sesame seeds. I tossed to blend really well and then set the cucumber aside on a plate.

Then I made miso soup using about 3 cups of water, 5 shiitake sliced, 1/2 onion thinly sliced, a bunch of salted wakame rinsed and soaked in water for about 15 minutes or so, 3 fingerling potatoes chopped, and about 1.5 tablespoons of miso.

I boiled everything together except for the wakame and miso for about 15 minutes. Then I mixed in the miso. I laid the wakame in the bowls and ladled the soup right on top.

All that was left for me to do was to grill up that skirt steak. My grill does skirt steak really well on high heat with the steak on the top rack for about 7-8 minutes per side. That gives the steak nice carmelization and grill marks while keeping the meat nice and juicy. I let it rest for about 7 minutes before slicing it up. Time to chow down!

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I had a bunch of tarragon left from my braised lamb shanks that I wanted to use up with some chicken. Most of the recipes I’ve seen with tarragon involve a cream sauce. That’s all well and good on a cold day, but what does that do for me on a hot, sweltering, humid day? I thought it’d be best to toss it into a marinade and slap the meat on the grill. So, that’s what I did.

First things first though, I made a very simple corn soup. This soup is so simple I didn’t even use garlic! I simply stripped the kernels off of 3 ears and threw them, along with the naked ears, into a pot with 2 cups of water. I brought it up to a boil, covered the pot, turned the heat down to med-low, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Then, I turned off the heat and let it come to room temperature. That gave me time to mix together the marinade and get the chicken ready.

Jumping ahead, once the soup was cool, I tossed the naked ears and poured everything else into my blender and pureed it all up. I poured it back into the pot and slowing brought it back up to a slow simmer. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and then garnished it with some chopped up tarragon.

For the marinade I mixed together 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 2 cloves of garlic minced, about 3 tablespoons of finely chopped tarragon, and 2 large chicken breasts that I separated the tender strip from the large piece (I did this for two reasons, the breasts were huge and I wanted some meat for lunch the next day). I covered it all with plastic and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour. I took it out and let it sit for about another hour while it came back to room temperature.

For my veggies I sautéed together 5 shiitake sliced, 1 red bell pepper cut into strips, 1 small head of broccoli cut into florets, 3 garlic cloves minced, and 1/4 onion sliced with 2 tablespoons of butter and about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.

I first melted the butter. Then I let the garlic go for about 30 seconds before adding the onion and pepper. About 5 minutes later I added the shiitake. 5 more minutes and I threw in the broccoli. I let that all saute together for about 7 more minutes and then poured in the soy sauce. Once the soy had all but evaporated in went about 2 tablespoons of chopped tarragon.

Grilling chicken like this is super easy. I heated the grill up to med-high heat and grilled the chicken for about 7 minutes on each side with the lid closed. That gives really nice grill marks and keeps the chicken nice and juicy.

That’s about all she wrote for this dinner. Oh, we had white rice for our starch.

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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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