Sunday, February 26, 2006

Jer: Braised Pork Belly

We moved to San Diego over a year ago and it has taken me this long to feel like I’m at home. What is home but a familiarity with all your surroundings. A drive home that is like the back of your hand. Knowing where to find your perfect cup of coffee. The one retail establishment where every visit is true therapy. And of course, for those that relish that perfect meal, the perfect market.

In search of pork belly I found home. None of my usual markets would sell me a cut less than 10 pounds and in desperation I went in search of a German meat market that someone had mentioned in casual conversation when we first moved here. “There is a German meat market in Carlsbad across the street from the Flower Fields that is as authentic as any market one would find in Europe.” I Googled “meat market” and “Carlsbad” and low and behold I find Tip Top Meat Market. I give them a ring and ask if they can special order me this cut of meat that now feels like the last leg of a cruel scavenger hunt. “Let me check” says the French sounding butcher on the phone. “Yes, we have some, how much would you like?” Bingo. I have found my market.

Next door to Tip Top Market is a green market with fresh produce picked from fields in Carlsbad. Check plus. I pick out all my green staples for the week and sneak out of there for less than $8. Tip Top Market is a gem. A true find for someone that lives for a well cooked meal shared with friends. Over 20 different types of handmade sausage, ducks galore, smoked ham hock for Pete’s favorite split pea soup which his mom has been making for him since he was young, and an imported dry goods section that would rival any market in London or Lyon. Hibiscus tea from Germany, tahini from Lebanon, Swedish chocolate, and Viennese pastries. I was in heaven. To top it off, there is an aisle devoted to dried beans. Beluga lentils, chana dal, petite crimson lentils. Sure each bag was more than $3, which might cause temporary cardiac arrest when compared to the $0.89 bag of beans at Trader Joes. But come on. Can one pass up such unexpected treasures and feel like the cook she prides herself to be?

I took home six pounds of pork belly for less than $20 and I couldn’t help but relish in how inexpensive and divine this meal was going to be. With six pounds to play with I decided to cook this obscure treasure in two batches. The first I would do according to Mr. Colichio’s recipe. Braise, remove skin, score fat and re-cook at 400 to brown the top. Thursday night, in between Olympic figure skating performances, I accomplished this task. The second night called for a different preparation – an identical braise but remove all of the fat and do not do the final step of high heat cooking. Instead let the fork tender pork cool in its own juices before it heads into the icebox for the night.

A favorite old CD was playing, and my Argentine malbec was too good to not cook a little more while the pork belly was braising. First up was braised cabbage. If you have never tried this dish, promise me you will as there is nothing more comforting than a $2 dish that tastes like much, much more. It cooks in the oven with any meat braise, tastes better the next day, and is so easy you might wish your mother taught you this dish before you headed off to college when cooking gourmet on a budget was almost unheard of. With some leftover pancetta, a half-empty container of chicken stock and a splash of my malbec, I finished off the night by cooking the beluga and French green lentils I found at Tip Top.

My sweet cousin Teena would be joining us for dinner on Saturday. She is in all respects, a sister and my dearest female companion here in San Diego. Loving and pure and a big fan of anything I cook I wanted to make a dessert that spoke to her heart. Like me, she is on quite an emotional roller coaster, given our grandfather’s emotional and physical state. What better way to mend her heart than with a Filipino chocolate cake that my Auntie Eva used to make for Teena when she lived with her years ago. I came upon this cake in January when Auntie Eva gave me her treasured recipe book. At the start of the year, I embarked on an important family project. In the spirit of my grandfather’s 80th birthday which takes place this May I decided to compile a Castillo family cookbook, rife with all of the recipes our Lola used to make for us when we were young. My gregarious grandmother used to babysit me, my sisters and all of my cousins and my love affair with cooking started while helping in her kitchen, which as an aside looks today exactly the way it did 25 years ago. What better way to honor my grandfather than with a book of love. Recipes from his wife, his children and his grandchildren in a book jam-packed with memories. This cake might make Teena cry.

Pete is in Buenos Aires until the 15th, and in spite of his absence, our meal was in a word, lovely. Good wine and laughter make for good times. We topped off the braised cabbage and stewed lentils with truffle mashed Yukon gold potatoes and they were an excellent companion to the braised pork belly. I prefer the method of removing all of the fat and letting it cool in its own juices but both meats were succulent and wonderful. When I told the table about Tip Top Market our friend Jon told me about Chino Family Farm in Rancho Santa Fe. Akin to the Union Square Green Market in New York, it is supposedly where all of the gourmet restaurants in San Diego buy vegetables from daily. We Google it tonight. Its open daily, and it is less than five miles from where we live. I am giddy and now have a plan for tomorrow. This place is really starting to feel like home.

Perfect braised cabbage

1 cabbage
1 carrot
1 onion
¼ cup good olive oil
¼ cup chicken stock
Salt, pepper, red pepper

Cut cabbage into eight wedges. Slice onion into slivers. Chop carrot into whatever size you like. Put all the vegetables in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and stock. Sprinkle salt, pepper and red pepper. Cover with foil and bake at 300 for two hours. Turn cabbage wedges over half-way through braise. If it dries out add stock. When fork tender, remove foil, turn heat up and cook until vegetables are beautifully browned.

My favorite lentils

Cook this on a weekend as it is wonderful as a mid-week meal served over sauteed greens.

1 onion
1 carrot
2 cups lentils
4 cups stock
Handful of pancetta
Red wine

Cook pancetta and onions in olive oil. Add lentils and stir. Add a splash of red wine and reduce. Add stock and simmer until lentils are tender. Half-way through cooking add carrots. When finished emulsify with a tablespoon or two of good olive oil.

Auntie Eva’s Chocolate Cake

¾ cup cocoa
1 1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup butter
3 eggs
1 ¾ cup sugar
2 ¼ cup cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 ¼ tsp baking soda

4 tbps flour
2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbps butter

It is the condensed milk and evaporated milk that makes this a Filipino dessert. Perhaps it’s the monotonous heat causing a dearth of cows and goats in the Philippines that forces its people to use canned milk in almost every sweet dish. In fact, the original recipe called for water instead of milk which I assume is not because water works better but because there is not much fresh milk in the Philippines. Whatever the reason, the results are Magnolia-esque and remind me so much of licking my fingers as a child.

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Add milk. Combine dry ingredients. Bake at 350 until set, 20-25 minutes. Don't overcook as it will dry out.

Cook all of the icing ingredients in a heavy sauce pan. Stir on medium/low until its really thick and the right consistency.

Prepare icing and use as a filling as well as a frosting. Melt white chocolate and add whatever color makes you happy. Dot with colored white chocolate, let set, set on an elegant white cake platter and serve to those you love.

Ps, I would make 1.5 times the icing as its really good and you want extra icing in the middle.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Recipe 4: Souffle a l'Orange

I've procrastinated enough and decide to just post the recipe that I've been thinking of, even though I haven't had to time to make it. Thus, there will be no pictures until I can find time...

My passion is definitely baking. In all my years of baking muffins, breads, pies, cakes, cookies, etc....I've never attempted a souffle. I don't know if it's the looming fear of a 'fall' or maybe it just doesn't sound like it would be my favorite dessert. Nonetheless, I've decided that it would be best to try it in the company of friends. I ventured through my french cookbooks and decided to wage my bets on Julia - Mastering the Art of French Cooking volume I. For some reason, the orange souffle caught my attention. Citrus is prime now and thoughts of a warm creamsicle crossed my mind when I thought of making a simple creme anglaise sauce to go with the souffle. I also thought a nice dark chocolate sauce would be nice. They also recommend adding almonds or a liquor like cointreau or grand marnier.

Oven to 400.

Preparing the souffle mold:
1/2 T softened butter
Granulated suger
6 cup mold preferable about 3 1/2 inches deep ( I think mini souffles would be nice in ramekins)

1. Butter the entire surface of the mold.
2. Add sugar to coat the interior surface.

The Bouilli sauce base:
1 orange
2 large sugar lumps
3 T sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar + 1 T
5 eggs (separated)
2 T softened butter
2 t vanilla
3-4 T of orange liquor

1. Rub sugar lumps over the orange to extract the oil. Mash the sugar lumps and zest the orange.
2. Beat the flour with some of the milk until well blended with wire whip. Beat in the rest of the milk and 1/3 cup of sugar. Beat in rest of the milk and the sugar. Stir over moderately high heat until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Boil, stirring, for 30 seconds. Sauce will be thick. Remove from heat and beat for 2 minutes to cool slightly.
3. Seperate the eggs and add yolks into center of the sauce one at a time. Beat a total of 4 yolks into the sauce. Reserve the whites to be whipped later.
4. Beat in half of the butter. Dot the top of the sauce with the rest of the butter to prevent a skin from forming on the surface.
5. Beat 5 eggwhites and salt together to form soft peaks. Sprinkle with the 1 T of sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
6. Beat the vanilla and liquor into the saucebase. Stir in 1/4 of the beaten eggwhites. Delicately fold in the rest.
7. Turn the souffle mixture into the prepared mold, leaving a little over an inch at the top of the mold.
8. Place the souffle in the middle of the preheated oven and immediately turn down to 375. In 20 minutes, when the souffle has begun to puff and brown, quickly sprinkle the top with powdered sugar. After a total of 30-35 minutes of baking, the top of the souffle should be nicely browned and a tester inserted in the side of the puff should come out clean.
9. Serve immediately!

Bon Apetit! Let me know how your experience goes. I will try to make mine early in the week and edit this to post some pics.

Results: I prepared the orange souffle tonight and had it with a cream anglaise sauce. The souffle didn't really rise above the rim of my pan like I must've been too big of a pan for the batter. It puffed up and browned nicely though. It did fall once I started cutting into it to serve. I think some people would get hung up on the texture of a souffle - but I thought the results were very tasty.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mountain-O-Puffy Shrimps

Here's my first attempt ever at Tempura Shrimp. I had frozen shrimp that I've been meaning to use and decided tonight was the night for some fryin'. Defrosted some shrimp, peeled them. Made a couple shallow cuts across the belly of the shrimp to straighten shrimp, to prevent curling during frying. Put in the frig until ready for frying. Got my batter ready by gently mixing 2 eggs, 1 c. cake flour, about 1/2 c. water, pinch of salt and pepper ( I used sparkling water that I was drinking at that moment. Thought the fizzies would make the batter more fluffy. Feel free to use beer too). You can make the batter thicker or thinner to your liking. Emptied out all my veggie oil into a pot. It wasn't enough, so then I emptied out the rest of my peanut oil. When Mike walked in the door from work, I started to heat up the oil. Took the shrimp out from the frig. Coated each shrimp with cake flour (season with salt and pepper). Dipped each individually into the egg batter. Shook off excess. And dropped into hot oil, one at a time. But if you are lucky enough to have panko flakes laying around like I did today, dredge the batter covered shrimp with panko flakes and fry for only a couple minutes until golden brown.

To make the tempura dipping sauce, I was too lazy to make it so I just used some soba sauce, mirin with a pinch of dashi ( japanese fish stock powder) and added water to make it a light sauce. I'm sure most of you don't have these things laying around in your pantry. So the real recipe for it is 3T. mirin (japanese rice wine), 6 1/2 T. soy sauce, 2 T. sugar, 2 c. japanese fish stock using hon-dashi(if you can't find hon-dashi, just use water.
Verdict? Fast and easy. Definitely going to be a regular in my frying repertoire. And for those of you who don't like to fry, don't be's so worth it!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ashley: Braised Pork Belly

After searching so hard for this precious little cut of meat, I think we got off to a bit of a bad I was starting my preperation and I laid it skin side down into the pan, my sister asks "were those nipples on the skin?" I was like "no way", but sure enough I got the bonified belly of pork, nipples and all. After being grossed out for a bit, I proceeded with the recipe. This was definitely an interesting dish to try for me. I paired it with a celeriac and potato puree with some rainbow swiss chard. The results were delightful!

I'm working on our next recipe, Elaine informed me that it was my turn next. I'll post in the next day or so. (I want to fix it before I post the recipe so there will be pics).

Stay tuned....

Kate: Braised Pork Belly

Pork Belly is a pretty popular cut here in Europe, very cheap and easy to get hold of. I do have a wonderful local butcher though who patiently waits for my stubbling french sentences to finish and pretends not to notice the odd english word thrown in when I am at a loss.."Vous avez vous du BELLY du porc?"
I loved the slow cooking process. You are right about the day after Jer. I had a couple of cheeky tastes before letting it sit over night and the difference in flavour really was dramatic.

I used fennel seeds with thyme for flavour this seemed to work. Once it was ready to serve I did a simple jewelled rice with peas, sweetcorn and carrots and then plenty of juices over the top. it really was delicious.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Nite of Tom Douglas

I was craving Tom Douglas' Coconut Cream Pie. So, I opened up his cookbook and started to think what I should have with my pie. Eventhough I've had Seattle Kitchen on my shelf for a couple years, I've never cooked from it. Curling up in bed with Tom made me realize how much I loved the format of his book. At the end of each recipe he has three additional sections "On the Plate", how he would plate the dish, "A Step Ahead", what you can prepare ahead of time and how to reheat it properly, and 'In the Glass", what he recommends you drink with it. So, I decided to dedicate myself to him this weekend and see how good his recipes were.

I started off with his "Long-Bone Short Ribs with Merlot Gravy and Rosemary White Beans" . And ended the meal with his Triple Coconut Cream Pie that I ordered with Cath at Dahlia restaurant when she lived in Seattle. I'm having brunch at a friends house so I decided to make some cinnamon rolls.

The Short Ribs were fall off the bone delicious. For the coldest day of the winter here in Chicago, this was the perfect dish to keep us warm. I also sweated some mixed mushrooms without adding any oil or liquids...just added a little salt.

The Long-Bone Short Ribs with Merlot Gravy and Rosemary White Beans
Serves 6
1 1/2 c. flour
1 T. kosher salt
1 t. pepper
6 long-bone short ribs (1.5 lbs each)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 T. garlic, chopped
2 t. fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 t. black peppercorns
2 c. Merlot or other dry red wine
3 c. chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
Gremolata of parsley and lemon zest
Rosemary White Beans sauteed with bacon, onion, garlic and chicken stock
Day Before:
Preheat oven to 325F/162C. Put flour, salt and pepper in plastic bag. Throw short ribs in the bag to coat. Shake off excess. Heat oil and brown ribs in dutch oven on all sides. Set ribs aside.
To the same pan, add onions and carrots until softened. Then add garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Return short ribs to pan, bone side up. Pour wine and chicken stock and bring to simmer. Cover and braise in oven for 2.5 hrs. Place ribs in container and refrigerate. Strain veggies out of braising liquid. Discard veggies. Refrigerate liquid separately from ribs.
Day of:
Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Place ribs in pan with 1 c. hot chicken stock. Cover and place in oven for 25 min. Skim fat off refrigerated liquid. Reduce the liquid for 15 min.

The "Triple" in the Triple Coconut Cream Pie refers to the Coconut Pie Crust, the Coconut pastry cream and the toasted Coconut sprinkled on top of the whipped cream. My favorite part was the pie shell. I do wish the coconut in the pastry cream was a little softer. But overall, a great dessert to try.

Coconut Pie Shell
1 c. + 2 T. flour
1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c. cold unsalted butter, diced
2 t. sugar
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/3 ice water, or more/less as needed
In food processor, combine flour, coconut, butter, sugar, and salt. Pulse to form crumbs. Add water, a tablespoon at a time just until the dough can form a ball with your hands. Form a disk, wrap, and chill for 30 min to 1 hr.Roll out dough and place into pie dish. Chill. Preheat oven to 400F/200C Place parchment over dough. Fill with dried beans. Bake until pastry rim is golden, about 20 min.Remove the beans and parchment. Return to oven to bake another 10-12 min or until golden brown patches. Remove and cool before filling.
Coconut Pastry Cream
2 c. milk
2 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1 vanilla bean
2 large eggs
1/2 c + 2 T sugar
3 T. flour
1/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
Combine milk and coconut. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add both seeds and pod to milk mixture. Stir until it comes to a boil.
In a bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and flour. Add egg mixture into saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over med-hi until pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until mixture is very thick. Remove from heat. Add butter. Discard vanilla pod. Transfer pastry cream to bowl and place over ice water. Stir until completely cooled. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Fill prebaked pie shell with pastry cream. Whisk up some whip cream until firm enough to hold shape. Pipe whipped creamover surface of pastry cream. Toast shredded coconut in microwave for a couple min until brown. Cool and sprinkle on top.

Lastly, a great treat to take over to a friends house unbaked...Douglas' version of Cinnamon Rolls. I've prepared the rolls. All I have to do is refrigerate tonite. Set it in a warm place tomorrow for 1 hr. I'll bring them over to my friends' house unbaked. Pop them in the oven for 35-40 min. And we can enjoy them straight out of the oven.

Sugar pecan topping with a cinnamon sugar filling. I was disappointed with how these cinnamon buns turned out. Not as gooey as I was hoping. Kinda too soggy. But looking forward to trying Tom's Cherry Almond Scones.
Thank you Tom Douglas!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Elaine: Braised Pork Belly

The hunt for pork belly: When asking the Jewel butchers if they had pork belly, they looked at eachother with blank faces and said " pork belly??? do we have THAT?" but they were really thinking "this asian girl should go to chinatown where she can also pick up her chicken feet, pigs blood and live frogs". My happy place, Whole Foods, didn't have it either. Finally ventured to our infamous Paulina Meat Market (nicest butchers ever! ) where sam basically had lunch there, sitting on the counter devouring handfuls of bologna the butcher kept on offering while I was waiting for my gorgeous little pork belly.

End result was...TO DIE FOR! First of all, I made the carrots super chunky cuz I knew I didn't wanted to keep those for our plates. They were like candy after all that braising. Yumm-O! I also can't believe the recipe asks for you to throw away the crunchy morsels of skin. I snacked on some of those homemade pork rinds while I waited those last 20 min. Those last 20 min felt like a long, that I took them out before they browned to perfection. Oh well, that's me being impatient. I didn't have much liquid left but the couple drops I had were so good. I think the 2 #s of pork belly is supposed to serve 4 but Mike and I ate it all. I served it with crispy sauteed string beans.

Now I know how to make my favorite chinese pork dish. They must braise the pork belly in a sugared soy sauce liquid. Then slice it and sandwich it between light and fluffy steamed bread. Mmmm. I'll definitely braise pork belly again. I might invite 2 more people over though so we had an excuse NOT to eat all 2 #s of belly.

Pasta day!

Sorry I've been such a posting slacker - this relocation is taking up a good deal of my time. Last Thursday I had a big pasta making day with some old neighbors - what fun! I've definitely concluded that pasta making is more fun as a group effort! Since October when I was laid off, we've had various joint cooking days - bread making, gnocchio making, etc - I'm going to miss my cooking buddies dearly. Good think I have virtual buddies like you guys!

We ended up making whole wheat spaghetti, spinach linguine, and a sweet ravioli. I just used a basic tomato sauce with the spaghetti. I made Steve a Valentine's dish with the the spinach linguine - topped it with seared scallops, shallots and a white wine sauce. (I am more creative with my seafood than just scallops - but they are Steve's fave. I've posted 2 scallop dishes on here now - enough!) The ravioli was interesting it had some confectioners sugar in the dough and then was filled with a sweet cream cheese filling and topped with a chocolate ganache sauce. We made heart shaped raviolis since it was Valentine's day.

I'm having problems finding the pork belly - but I'm off to search more today or tomorrow!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Fennel Spice Rub

Hi guys...this is off-topic but I wanted to post this yummy spice rub that I use all the time. My mother-in-law discovered it watching Food TV--pretty sure it's by Michael Chiarello. This makes a TON and it keeps in the fridge for months. Great for dressing up a weeknight roast chicken or pork tender--at the end I usually deglaze with white wine. Will try and get to the pork belly this weekend. Hope everyone is well! Cath

Fennel Spice Rub


1 cup fennel seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons white peppercorns
3 tablespoons kosher salt

1. Put the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns in a heavy pan over medium heat. Watch carefully, tossing frequently so the seeds toast evenly. When light brown and fragrant, pour the seeds onto a plate to cool. They must be cool before grinding, or they will gum up the blades.

2. Pour the seeds into a blender and add the salt. Blend to a fine powder, shaking the blender occasionally to redistribute the seeds. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool, dry place, or freeze.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Elaine: Gratin of Macaroni

Just finished eating my macaroni. tummy is still angry with me for eating so much of this dish. I baked it in a shallow pie dish. I sprinked more grated gruyere and some breadcrumbs to make sure it browned and crunched enough. I served it with a spinach salad dressed with champagne garlic vinaigrette and drizzled a tomato coulis on the gratin. This recipe was actually really tasty except it was definitely too greasy. Thanks for making sure I DIDN'T make this with the pork belly.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Instant Udon to the Rescue!

After handing my son off to my husband even before he walks into the door and dragging my very UN-housetrained puppy out for his long walk, I forgot about dinner. I come back with my devilish horns of hunger and run to my stash of instant udon, throw in some frozen kamaboko (fish cakes), green onions, and some curry cubes that I found in the back of my overcrowded pantry (gotta love the pantry where you can't get the cabinet shut). Dished out the udon and soup like the slob that I am (cleaning lady is coming tomorrow). Slurp slurp slurp! Finishing of with sips of the perfect glow in the dark drink, Tang... I bad but soooo good. A happy belly replaces my hungry horns. This SO does not fit with the entries you guys have posted. Anyway, looking forward to bacon, bacon and more bacon.

While we're talking bacon.....

I just typed up one of my favorite starters for a friend and thought I'd share it with you guys. I know in some scenes bacon wrapped things have been overdone...but as Steve says "everything is better with bacon"...I think it's a guy thing. The sauce for this is so easy and is such a big hit! Maybe something to try for your Valentine dinner....

Scallops with Bacon and Maple Cream
2 ½ cups of heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 ½ T Dijon mustard
½ t grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 ½ lbs of fresh scallops
1 lb sliced maple cured bacon
2 T snipped fresh chives or parsley

Combine cream and maple syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring just to a boil then simmer until reduced almost by half, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper; simmer a few minutes more and remove from heat.
Cute the bacon slices so that they wrap once around the scallops. Wrap each scallop in a piece of bacon(AGJ: I secure with a toothpick). Place the scallops in rows on a broiling tray.
Preheat the broiler. Broil the scallops 4-5 inches from the heat until the bacon is browned and crisp, 4-5 minutes. (AGJ: I actually sear the scallops and turn the scallops such that the bacon gets crisp).
Transfer the hot scallops to shallow serving bowl (or individual plates) and pour the maple cream over all, sprinkle with chives and serve at once.

Recipe 3: Braised Pork Belly

Tom Colicchio of Craft and Gramercy Tavern fame published a book five years ago called Think Like a Chef. Prior to reading this book I slaved over recipes, following them to a tee and letting my manic self go a little nutty if I couldn't find a particular indgredient. This book changed that for me as it broke down technique in a way that I could finally access. Since then I've been addicted to technique based cookbooks (Colicchio, Judy Rodgers, Molly Stevens and Biba Caggiano being some of my favorites). Using technique from Think Like a Chef, in 2000 I tried my first braise - a traditional braised short rib. That meal revealed a secret to me - that if you use time like an indgredient, the transformation that takes place for certain meats and vegetables is out of this world. I spent the next few years perfecting this truly heavenly dish and now its my official meal of love as we make it for very special people, on special occassions, when we want them to know how much we love them.

In Think Like a Chef, there is a recipe for braised pork belly that I've always wanted to try (GQ voted it their favorite dish of the year and I'm always searching for dishes that make Pete and other male friends swoon the way Elaine does over a dish). I was toying with the idea of it being our next group recipe but wondered if anyone in the group had ever worked with pork belly before. I thought it would be fun for those of us who hadn't to try a recipe that forced us to talk to our butchers and seek better butchers if ours couldn't special order pork belly for us. When Kate wrote yesterday that she went through a pork belly phase last year I laughed out loud because I realized why Elaine brought us all together. Only crazies like us would go through a phase on pork belly, or braised short ribs, or whatever. We're manic perfectionists who not only love to cook but love those "aha" moments both in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

So here is Tom Colichio's recipe for braised pork belly or as he calls it braised fresh "bacon." Kate posted two wonderful recipes also so feel free to try this one or one of the other two. I think I will make this next Tuesday February 14.

Braised Fresh "Bacon"

Peanut oil
2# pork belly, skin on
Mireproix, coarse chop (carrot, onion, celery, leek, garlic - whatever you have)
About 3 cups chicken stock

Oven to 325-350. Season pork with salt and pepper and add skin side down to pan with hot peanut oil. Cook until skin is browned (about 15 minutes) and transfer to plate.

Pour off all but 2 tblsp fat and add vegetables, cook. Add fresh sage and/or thyme. Return pork belly to pan add 2 cups stock , simmer and put into the oven. After 1 hour add another cup of stock. Braise until fork tender. Don't rush, really wait for it.

Allow pork to cool in braising liquid.

Remove pork from liquid and remove skin. Score fat and cut pork into four pieces. Strain liquid and return meat to liquid.

I am a big believer that all braises taste better the next day. So after scoring fat, I will return pork to liquid and put in the fridge to cook the next day.

Oven to 400. Remove fat on top and reheat until pork is heated through and the fat nicely browned.

Make a box of rice pilaf and throw away the box before anyone sees, light a candle, indulge in some really great red wine, tell him you love him, and enjoy!

For those in the group that don't braise often, this is as classic a braising recipe and technique as one can find -- the only indgredient missing that is often found in a braise is wine to help tenderize the meat while cooking. Unlike beef short ribs or osso bucco - tough cuts that really need the help of wine - I'm assuming the pork is tender enough that the slow cooking in the stock without the wine is fine and that's why he left it out.

Had to Share...

we had friends over on saturday night and I did two of my old time favourites, chicken with chickpea salad and capsicum sauce then a blitz torte and just had to share........

Before the chicken I passed around fresh anchovie toasts (bill granger) with berry champange cocktails.
The toasts are zesty, crunchy and have enough flavour and substance to carry staright to a main course.
Anchovie Toasts
In a bowl combine 18 fresh anchovie fillets with 1 tblsp of lemon zest, 2 1/2 tbls chopped red onion, and a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley.
Brush 18 slices of small sourdough bagette with olive oil ( both sides) and cook for about 7 mins - until crisp.
Top the toats with the mixture.
The champagne was a good partner, not to mention party starter.

In tall flutes put a small pure cane sugar cube, a dribble of creme de cassis and a berry, i used huge, juicy blackberries i got from our local markets, then fill the glass to the top with champers.

Roast chicken with chickpea salad and capsicum sauce
This appears to be a huge recipe...that because it is but it is well worth it and pretty simple.
The capsicum sauce doesnt have to be made ahead but can and for me, gone are the days that i can cook all day without interruption so every bit helps...

The capsicum sauce
100 ml olive oil
6 red capsicum chopped (or red pepper-not sure what you call then in the states..bell peppers?)
1 medium red onion chopped
6 cloves of garlic, sliced ( i use 1)
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 fresh red chilli finely chopped
80 g brown sugar
100 ml white vinegar
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan, add capsicum and onion and stir occasionally over a medium heat. Do this fopr about 15-20 mins or until vegetables are soft. Add garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for three minutes, add brown sugar and stir over heat for 15 mins. Add vinegar and simmer stirring occasionally until vinegar has evaporated. Cool to room temp process in food processor an dseason. Spoon mixture into strilised jars and seal whilst still warm. This keeps, in the fridge for a few weeks and is great adder to pasta, sandwiches whatever you fancy.

The chickpea salad
2 tins of chickpeas (or 200g dried chickpeas soaked over night etc..)
1 cup of good egg mayo
2 tblsp finely chopped tarragon leaves
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, season to taste and mix well.

The chicken
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
6 chicken breasts
2 tbls olive oil
3 small avocados, peeled, halved and thickly sliced
Combine coriander,fenugreek, chilli flakes and mustard seeds in a pan and dry raost until aromatic, low heat. Place seeds in mortar and pestle and crush until fine add tumeric and cinnamon. Place chicken breasts ina single layer in a glass or ceramic dish and rub all over with spice mix.
Heat olive iol in a non stick fry pan amd brown chicken in batches over a medium heat, transfer to a roasting pan and bake at 190 for 10-15 mins or til cooked. Remove and rest for 5.

To serve place capsicum sauce on plate as a round base ( about 1-2 tblsp) top with slices of avocado and then capsicum sauce then halve the chicken breasts and palce on top. finish with a blob more cap sauce on top.
I put a bowl of rocket ( rucola) leaves on the table too but i dont hink it was necessary.

we had blitz torte for dessert but i am all typed out so will save that for another time

Blitz Torte

Here is the recipe for the torte. I always shy away from making anything meringue for some reason and I am not such a huge fan of eating it either but this cake is an exception to the rule on both counts. Its very easy with any mistakes easily powdered over and I never tire of eating it. Another plus is that its keeps very well in the fridge for a few days.

1/4 lb butter
1/4 lb castor sugar + 6 oz
3 eggs seperated
3 oz plain flour
1 oz
2 level tsp baking powder
1/2 level tsp cinnamon plus extra for dusting
6 tblsp single cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
300 ml whipped cream
powdered sugar for dusting

Cream butter and 1/4 lb of sugar til light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time beating well inbetween. Combine flour, cornflour, baking powder and cinnamon and stir into butter mixture alternatively with the cream to which you have added 1/2 tsp of the vanilla.
Spread mixture evenly into two springform tins of the same size. (20-23cm will do) which have been greased and lined with baking paper. It looks like the mixture wont make it, especially if your tins are 23cm but spread thinly and trust me.
Beat egg whites until stiff, then beat in the 6 oz of sugar and the other 1/2 tsp vanilla. Beat until mixture is thick and glossy.
Spread mixture evenly over torte mixture in the two tins.
Place in oven at 170c for 25 mins thenturn up to 180c for another 30mins.
Cool in tins. Caefully remove. Just before serving invert one cake on a plate, spread evenly with whipped cream and place other cake on top...obviously if one of the meringues ahs turned out better than the other use this one for the top. then dust lightly with cinnamon and icing sugar.
serve with more cream

Belly Pork

Braised pork with soy and orange.
I have a few recipes for pork belly but the one I mentioned before i cant find...Anyway I will do it from memory but if you are going to do it just watch the cooking times.
Jer this one is roasted there is a braised one to follow but this is my favourite by far. The fennel thyme flavour combo is just fab.

Slow Braised Pork Belly with Braised lentils

1kg pork belly with skin scored
1 tblsp fennel seeds
1 tblsp coriander seeds
1/2 tblsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp sea salt
1 tblsp olive oil


300 g Du Puy Lentils (these are great lentils, hold their form once cooked without turning to mush like many of thier sisters)
1 onion chopped quite finely
2 medium carrotts chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves
1 tbslp olive oil
700ml chicken stock
2 tsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Dry roast fennel and coriander seeds in small pan until popping and aromatic. Crush in M&P then add salt, thyme leaves crush a little more then stir in olive oil.
Rub this mixture all over the pork skin getting into all the crevices.

Place in roasting tin skin side up and put in upper half of hot oven for 30 mins...this is to dry out the skin and it starts to crackle. After 30 mins throw in a cup of water, cover with foil and turn down to medium heat. Cook for a further 40 mins or until cooked and tender. If at this point your skin is not suitbaly crackled cheat and slice off the skin ( always comes of very easily ) and place under hot grill (i think you call it broiler) until crackled and just allow the rest of the pork to rest in a warm place.

Meanwhile for the lentils heat oil in pan, add onion for a few mins unitl soft, add carrott adn cook for further couple of mins.stir in thyme leaves then lentils and stir well coating them for a minute of two. then pour in stock, cover and cook on medium low heat for 30 mins. Once tender turn off heat stir in vinegar and season.

serve pork on a bed of lentils....fine as it is but creamy mashed potato goes well as do buttery new potatoes.

Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Orange and Soy

I have not done this for ages but reading over it again I remember how good it was. I love the one potness of it.

1kg pork belly
1 1/4 cups beef stock ( ive used chicken)
1/2 cup dark soy
1/4 cup mirin
juice and grated rind of one orange
2.5cm piece ginger, peeled and julienned
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 fresh red chillies
1 tbls grated palm sugar
4 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
500g bok choy or choy sum or other asian green
steamed rice to serve.

Cut pork into 12 pieces, place in flameproof casserole, add enoguh water to cover and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 20 mins. drain and return pork to the pan. Add stock, soy, mirin, orange jiuce, rind, ginger, garlic, clillies sugar and spices. Add just enough water to cover the pork and bring to the boil, lower heat, cover and gently simmer for 1 1/2 hours. remove lid and simmer for another 25 mins. add greens for another 5-6 mins, until wilted.
Serve braised pork and vegetables with plenty of cooking juices and steamed rice.

Sorry there are no visuals but maybe they can be added. Enjoy

Monday, February 06, 2006

Jer: Libyan Stew

Happy Sunday!

Made the Libyan Stew and we really enjoyed it!! (By the way, I think we need to change spelling on the blog to Libyan from Lybian) Nelson could not get enough (Nelson is my and Elaine’s old roommate from NYC who now lives here in San Diego near me and Peter). The stew had great new flavors for us as I rarely cook with middle eastern or Indian spices. Great recipe Kate! I love how food is a reflection of the world and how in spite of how different we all seem to think we are, the reality is that we’re really all cooking and eating the same thing. Before adding the couscous and aside from the spices, this is very similar to the traditional lamb stews of northern Italy. Add a little chocolate and hold the garbanzos and cook with pork or chicken and this is essentially a Mexican mole. Use soy sauce and fewer spices and add some potato and we have a very traditional Filipino dish called menudo. Add some coconut milk and carrots and potatoes and we have Thai curry … I’m not as familiar with Indian cuisine but I’m sure there is a parallel version there as well … I love that about food!

I made a few adjustments, not because I thought the recipe needed a change but because I didn’t want to run to the store. I had some fresh pita bread around which I buy weekly from my favorite middle eastern food guy at the green market (who makes a killer fresh baba ganoush) so just before dinner I cut one into triangles, painted some olive oil and threw some fresh sea salt on before popping in our toaster oven (who I affectionately refer to as “Art”) and we ate the stew with the pita toasts, using them almost as makeshift spoons. I didn’t have garbanzo beans and we love really thick stews that can stand on their own without having to put on a carb base so I used much more couscous to thicken and added some chopped carrots. So our meal, as you’ll see from the photo, was much thicker than a soup-like stew. One more thing, I marinated the meat one hour ahead of time in a mix of one-half part balsamic to one part olive oil with some salt, pepper and chopped herbs. I dried thoroughly with paper towels before browning. Not sure if that was necessary but I had the time and so I decided to use it. I used 2 packages of lamb shoulder – one with bones and one without. Given how long the stew cooks I thought having some bones in there would help with the flavor. I loved how the meat off the bone tasted so next time I’ll use only lamb on bone. I loved, loved, loved, the contrast of spice and lemon!

It was a gray Sunday here in San Diego. Pete watched the only football match he’ll watch all year – the super bowl – and I spent most of the afternoon trying to figure out the US Government’s trademark site to file a trademark application for our books. We received finished books from the printer on Thursday and we’re quite happy with how they turned out. You really never know until you see a finished copy. Very, very excited I must say.

Hope everyone had a wonderful and yummy weekend!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Chicken with Butternut Squash

Hi all, made something on the fly tonight that Pete gobbled up (which is always my test for when something is real yummy)! I hope to make the Lybian Stew tomorrow (Sunday) night for dinner. Elaine, Nelson is coming over so I'll make it for him and Pietro. Am I behind just one recipe or two???

There was a bag of precut butternut squash in the fresh section at Trader Joes. $1.99. So cheap!! Had to buy and make something with it.

Oven to 350. Dry chicken breasts with paper towel and season with s/p. Brown a minute or so each side in a pan that can transfer to oven and then remove chicken from pan. Add thin sliced onions and cook a bit. Add chunks of butternut squash. Season. Add some white wine, defrond and reduce a bit. Return chicken to pan and put in oven. Up to this point took 5 minutes since the squash was already cut. Thanks Jose! I had it in oven covered for about 10 minutes then uncovered for about 15 minutes while we watched a silly but cute movie on TV about teenaged super heroes. Snipped a few herbs
from my new little herb garden outside that sits in the shade of my meyer lemon tree. Gave those a chop and added to the pan with a splash (just a splash) of crème. Let is sit in the oven for another 10 maybe 15 minutes or so and went back to movie. Took out when the squash was really quite soft and carmelized and lovely. Gave it a few mixes right there in the pot and served with freshly ground pepper. Pete could not get enough. Next time I might throw in some fresh English or fava beans ... which believe it or not I'm starting to see in the green markets here. Peas and strawberries.
Always the sign of spring!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Recipe 2: Gratin of Macaroni

Well...followed the other recipe (the gratin of macaroni) to a tee last night and it was main criticism is it ended up being VERY oily. If I were doing it again I would skip the olive oil or just use a teeny tiny amount. It also needs longer than 20 minutes to brown. I'm not sure how long I ended up cooking mine for but it was probably closer to half an hour. I did like the flavor of the Gruyere. And it definitely wasn't super-cheesy which I liked. I used creme fraiche and while it looked wonderfully rich and creamy going into the oven it either evaporated or converted to oil by the time it came out! I don't know if this is really main-dish material. With some tweaking, it would be great as a side for roast chicken or something like that.


Salt and freshly ground black pepper

200 grams large macaroni

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic

200 ml crème fraîche or double cream

60 grams fresh Gruyère cheese

10 grams butter

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5/375. In a large casserole, bring two litres of water to the boil with 20 grams of salt. Add the pasta and cook for eight minutes. Drain by lifting it out of the water and immediately coat it in olive oil. Meanwhile, take an ovenproof dish broad enough to fit in two layers of the pasta; if it is too small, the pasta will be too deep and only a small portion of it will be gratinated. Rub the inside of the dish with the clove of garlic, cut in half. This will coat the dish with a wonderful sweet aroma.

2. In a bowl, mix the pasta with the cream and cheese. Season with salt and pepper and pour into the ovenproof dish. Dot the surface with the butter and put into the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes. You should have a wonderful golden gratin. For a little more colour on the top, pop the gratin under the grill.