Friday, June 28, 2019

Ping Gai Chicken - Laotian "Grilled Chicken Chicken"

I believe this ping gai chicken is the first Laotian recipe we’ve ever posted on the blog, but based on how incredibly delicious this was, it won’t be the last! Having said that, based on my several minutes of exhaustive research, this particular recipe seems to have originated from the Queen Mother Cafe in Toronto, so I’m not sure how much North Americanization has occurred, but it’s only a matter of time before someone lets me know.

Besides all the freshly ground black pepper, the other key element here is the equally generous amount of chopped cilantro, which unfortunately not everyone is able to enjoy. For roughly 10% of the population, the herb tastes like soap, so below I’m going to provide you with a substitute herb blend that will get you pretty close.

You can use this same marinade with chicken breasts, but I really think the darker, richer meat makes for a much better match with the herbaceous, black pepper flavor profile. By the way, some recipes call for garlic in the marinade, and some don’t, but since my dipping sauce was going to be very garlicky, I didn’t add any to mine. As usual, suit yourself, but either way I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Large Portions Ping Gai Chicken:
2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 10)
For the marinade:
1 to 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, freshly and coarsely ground
1 very large bunch fresh cilantro, stems and leaves (about 1 cup packed)
note: instead of cilantro, you can use equal parts basil, parsley, and mint
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the dipping sauce:
2/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
juice from 1 lime
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Asian chili paste or sauce
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
2 to 3 tablespoons honey, or to taste

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Firecracker Shrimp Roll with Crab Aioli - A Fourth of July Po'Boy

This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten a video idea from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but it is the first time I can’t seem to figure out which restaurant it came from. I wasn’t paying close attention, and just caught the end of the segment, but I do know they didn’t call it a firecracker shrimp roll with crab aioli, but rather a shrimp po’boy with crab mayo; just in case that helps someone I.D. this.

I decided to do an extra spicy version, and give it a 4th of July-friendly name, but the soul of the sandwich is the same, and features an insanely great combination of hot, crunchy shrimp, and cold crabby mayo. This was one of the best things I’ve had in a long time, and that’s after eating it barely warm, which is not recommended. For best results, be sure to enjoy this just as soon as it’s safe to eat, in all its crunchy glory.

The amounts below will make four giant portions, which you could easily stretch into six, but I’m a big fan of the time-honored po’boy sandwich tradition of overfilling. I remember eating a fried oyster po’boy in New Orleans one time, and being almost full by the time I’d eaten enough off the top to close the bun. Good times. But no matter how generous you decide to be, I really do hope you give this amazing firecracker shrimp roll a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Firecracker Shrimp Rolls with Crab Aioli:
canola oil for pan frying
4 soft sandwich rolls, split and toasted
2 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce
2 pounds raw, peeled, and deveined shrimp

For the soak:
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon chipotle pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the breading:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup corn meal
2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the crab aioli:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup lump crabmeat
2 cloves finely crushed garlic
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly chopped tarragon
salt and cayenne to taste

Friday, June 21, 2019

Golden State Gazpacho – Cold Soup for a Long Hot Day

It only seems fitting to post this Golden State Gazpacho recipe on the first day of summer, and the longest day of the year, since there is simply no better thing to eat on a hot, sunny afternoon. And since this time of year those hot sunny afternoons last well into the evening, there’s plenty of time to whip up a batch between naps.

Many gazpacho recipes that include fruit turn out tasting more like dessert, which is fine if that’s what you’re into, but if you want something that actually tastes like a super-refreshing, and seriously savory gazpacho, then this peach-kissed version is for you. This is a very simple recipe, and not a lot can go wrong, as long as you serve it ice cold. I can’t stress this enough, but I'll try. 

Some folks actually like to freeze about half the recipe in ice cube trays, and then serve those with the soup, to ensure that it’s literally ice cold. That’s a great trick if you feel so inclined, but at the very least, give your gazpacho a few hours in the fridge, as well as keep your cups in the freezer. Regardless, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 Portions:
2 pints sun gold cherry tomatoes
1 cup red cherry tomatoes
1 rounded cup cubed ripe yellow peaches, peeled (about 2 smaller peaches)
1 cup sliced, peeled English cucumber
1/2 cup roughly chopped orange bell pepper
1/4 cup yellow onion
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
cayenne to taste
2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
1 lime, juiced, or to taste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup cold fresh water
For the garnish:
crumbled feta
diced fresh peach
thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Chicken Noodle Salad – Making Friends with Cold Spaghetti

The great American philosopher, Homer Simpson, once said, “You don’t make friends with salad.” This cold, spicy, and addictively delicious chicken noodle salad might be the exception. You bring a big bowl of this to the next big cookout, and you’re going to make all sorts of friends. The only people who might not be huge fans are the folks who brought regular pasta salads, in which case the best you can hope for is frenemies.

While I also love more traditional pasta salads, there’s just something extra special about this combination of tastes, and textures, as well as the always exciting aspect of spicy food served cold. Besides that, this recipe is a perfect catchall for all those summer vegetables we're supposed to be eating more of. No matter what you add, if you can make this ahead, it will always come out a little better, since the noodles and chicken will have time to soak up all that flavorful dressing.

As I mentioned, this salad usually gets made because you have some possibly dry leftover grilled chicken around, or other meat for that matter, but if you do want to poach some like I did here, I would watch this video for the proper technique. Or, in a pinch, just pick up a rotisserie chicken from the store. Regardless of what you use, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 large portions:
8 ounces dry spaghetti, cooked al dente, rinsed in cold water, and drained
1 large cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 cup thinly grated carrots
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped roasted salted peanuts
1 cup packed mixture of chopped basil, mint, and cilantro

For the dressing (all amounts here are to taste, so add more if you want): 
3 garlic cloves, crushed 
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar 
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
1 tablespoon soy sauce 
1 tablespoon fish sauce 
1 tablespoon sriracha 
1 tablespoon hoisin 
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Black & Blue Steak Burger – Wait Until the Guys Hear About This!

Chopping up perfectly good steaks to make burgers with is going to raise a few eyebrows, and that’s just one of the reasons to do it. The great taste and texture are a couple other ones, not to mention it’s always nice to know exactly what you’re eating. Besides, imagine the mileage your dad’s going to get out of the story about the time you hand-chopped a rib eye just to make him a burger for Father’s Day. That’s pure chatting with your buddies at the hardware store gold.

This will also work with cheaper cuts like chuck, or round, but there’s a certain luxuriousness starting out with meat that’s already tender before it’s even chopped. By the way, using premium cuts for burgers is nothing new, and steakhouses have been doing just that with their trimmings for decades, which reminds me, if you can find some extra flavorful dry-aged beef, this will be even more memorable.

Above and beyond the taste, as long as you’re using cuts with enough fat, hand chopping the meat to a course grind will produce a very tender burger. Most hamburger meat from the store is too finely ground, and horribly overworked, and by the time you form it into patties, it can’t help but be a little tough. That’s not a problem here. By using a sharp knife, and partially frozen meat, there will be little to no fat smearing, which is one of the things that makes for a chewy burger.

Feel free to use no cheese, or a different variety, but the sharp, slightly salty funkiness of the blue cheese really works perfectly here. And the glorious crust we get as our meat sears in that melted fat is a wonder to behold. Homemade buns will also add to the experience, and here’s the link for making your own, but even if you’re going to serve this on a store-bought bun, and really do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients to make 4 normal, or 3 giant Black & Blue Steak Burgers:
3/4 pound fatty rib eye steak
3/4 pound top sirloin steak
2 ounces (about 1/2 cup not packed) crumbled blue cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
-Sear about 3 minutes per side in a dry, very hot cast iron pan set over medium-high heat.

For the red onions:
1 red onion, sliced
big pinch of salt
enough red wine vinegar to cover
- Combine ingredients and let sit in fridge overnight, or until the onions turn color and soften slightly.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Million Dollar Dip – Worth Every Penny

When I heard there was a recipe called million dollar dip, I knew it was something I had to try, especially since it was invented by a fellow upstate New Yorker, named Helen Corbitt. Apparently, the original name was Neiman Marcus dip, which at some point evolved into million dollar dip, although I’m not exactly sure when, or why. I’m guessing Pinterest had something to do with it.

Whatever the reason, I do like the new name better, and not just because recipes shouldn’t be named for department stores, but also because million dollar dip is so darn accurate. I’ve had more than a few cheese-based dips in my day, but this is, by far, the richest one I’ve ever enjoyed. I mostly credit the semi surprising addition of almonds, which makes sense, since that’s the best part of any holiday cheese ball. Yes, I’m that guy at the party who whittles off all the crushed nuts it was rolled in.

By the way, I wanted to expand on a cryptic tip I gave during the video, when I said to use a sharp knife for the green onions, so they taste better. The reason is, if you use a dull knife to slice or chop onions, you’ll be crushing instead of cutting, which releases volatile sulfuric compounds, and makes the flavor much harsher.

In fact, I have a theory that most people who don’t like onions, had parents who used dull knives to cut onions when they were kids. If that’s you, go buy a sharp knife, and give them another try. That aside, this dip is extremely simple to make, profoundly satisfying, extremely addictive, and sure to be a huge hit at your next party, which is why I really do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 3 cups of Million Dollar Dip:
1/2 cup chopped crisp-cooked bacon (6 to 8 slices)
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup slivered almonds, very lightly toasted
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
pinch of cayenne

Friday, June 7, 2019

Pineapple Pulled Pork Al Pastor – Holy Smokes This Was Good

When I roast, or smoke a pork shoulder outside on the grill, I usually break a few rules, and by a few, I mean pretty much all of them. I use too high a heat; I don’t wrap my meat halfway through; or even bother mopping the meat with a marinade; and yet despite ignoring all those best practices, I’m always thrilled with how it comes out.

Maybe it’s the brine, or that I’m just easily satisfied, but it’s been my experience that if you season aggressively, and cook the meat over smoky coals to an internal temp of 195 F., you’ll be rewarded with tender, moist, and very flavorful meat. By the way, this was inspired by the famous al pastor taco’s spice blend, and pineapple element, but I wouldn’t want anyone to expect this to taste exactly like that magical meat.

Having said that, this particular flavor profile really works here, especially when the pulled pork is topped with grilled pineapple salsa. In fact, that stuff was so delicious, you should make it even if you’re not barbecuing the shoulder. It’s great on anything, including ice cream; so don’t let the last of those hot coals go to waste.

The only real challenge here is maintaining a steady temp in your grill of between 300 and 325 F. I try to keep it just above 300 F., which is accomplished by adjusting the vents under, and on top of the grill, or smoker. I also like to start with a good amount of (real) charcoal, so I don’t have to reload it halfway through, but that depends on your set-up. Thanks to the brine, and spice rub, even if you end up having to do this in the oven, I still think it comes out quite well. In any event, there’s nothing like a juicy, pulled pork sandwich, and this is one of my favorite versions, which is why I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 12 portions:
1 bone-in pork shoulder (about 9-10 pounds)
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1 quart pineapple juice
3 quarts water
For the Rub (will make extra):
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup ancho chili powder, or any ground chili pepper
1 tablespoon ground chipotle
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon cumin optional
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons cinnamon
For the Pineapple Salsa:
2 cups chopped grilled pineapple
1 finely diced Serrano chili pepper
2 tablespoons diced roasted red pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon spice rub, or to taste
additional salt to taste