Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop… it’s porky goodness!

It was 99 degrees F outside today, and it’s only the middle of May.  Mother Nature, you are being cruel to us.  I love when you are around the 70s to mid-80s, because that’s what you are during the months of April and May.  In fact, that’s my favorite time of the year here.  So what gives?  Is this a taste of what is to come this summer?  Please be kind.  I can’t bear sizzling temperatures near/over 110 degrees F.

I couldn’t bear to cook in the house today.  We cooked in yesterday, although it was 93 degrees F outside, our house seemed like a sauna.  I suppose we could have turned on the air conditioner, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that because it is only May.  But I digress.  It was the perfect to take the cooking outdoors, and I’ll take any excuse to play, I mean, cook on my Big Green Egg.

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop (adapted from Viet World Kitchen)

4 pork chops, bone-in, about 1 inch thick
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons garlic
3 tablespoons shallot
1 1/2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil

Using a mini food processor, pulse the sugar, garlic, shallot, and lemongrass to a mince-like texture. Add the pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, and oil, and process to combine well.

Place the pork chops in a large zip-lock bag, and pour the marinade to coat. Squish the marinade around to coat the pork chops evenly. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, up to 24 hours. Allow the pork chops to rest at room temperature, about 30-45 minutes, before grilling.

Preheat the Big Green Egg (or any grill) to 550 degrees F (or medium-high heat). Grill the pork chops over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, about 4 minutes. Flip, and cook for an additional Place the chops on the grill rack of your Big Green Egg. Sear the chops for about 4 minutes, flip, and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove from the grill, and let the pork chops rest for 5 minutes.

My favorite way to eat these delicious pork chops is over steamed white rice with a fried egg, and nuoc cham dipping sauce.  Yum.

Makes 4 servings.

Amuse Bouche This: Pork Wonton Soup Meets Japanese Braised Pork Belly and Kale

[I can't believe I still haven't blogged about this!... This post was sitting in my drafts folder for almost a year.  How did i miss this?! ]

My ultimate comfort food is pork wonton soup that my Mom used to make when I was growing up.  I could almost guarantee there would a big bowl of filling with two packets of wonton wrappers waiting for me to help her wrap wontons during the first day of winter.  We’d make a large batch to consume later that night, but she would also freeze baggies of wontons for Monday night dinners weeks ahead.

It’s raining and cold outside today.  I was craving something warm and soothing, but I realized that we had recently finished the wontons my Mom gave us.  What was my solution?  It was easy… make some more!

This is my kicked up version of the traditional pork wonton soup with slices of char shiu pork and bok choy…

Amuse Bouche This: Pork Wonton Soup Meets Japanese Braised Pork Belly and Kale

For the filling:

1 pound of ground pork
3 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 1/4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup of low-sodium chicken broth
Pinch of salt
Pinch of white pepper
1 packet of wonton wrappers

Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a large mixing bowl.

Fill a small bowl with water and keep it next to you. Place one heaping teaspoonful of the filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. [Be sure not to put too much of the filling, otherwise it'll leak out during the folding process.] Moisten all the edges of the wonton wrapper with water using your finger. Fold one edge of the wrapper over the filling like a triangle. Press the edges firmly together to make a seal, which will help eliminate any air pockets. Bring the left and right corners together above the filling. Overlap the tips of these corners, moisten with water and press together. Continue until all the wrappers are used.

Note: Wontons can be made a month ahead. Freeze in a layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Carefully lift the wontons and place them in a sealable plastic bag and keep frozen.

For the soup:

1 quart of chicken stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1/2 bunch of kale, strip out the center core or stalk, tear kale into small pieces

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large pot. Add the kale and drop in the amount of wontons you want, and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes minutes.

Garnish serving spoon or miniature serving bowls with a little broth, kale, a wonton, and braised pork belly.

For the braised pork (adapted from No Recipes):

6 cloves of garlic crushed with a heavy object
1 cup water
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons sake
2 teaspoon soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds pork belly cut into 2″ strips

In a small dutch oven or heavy bottom pan with a tight-fitting lid, combine all the ingredients in the pot, and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat falls apart and the fat is silky smooth.

Remove from heat and allow the pork to rest in the broth overnight by putting it in the refrigerator after it cools. This will accomplish two things: 1) it gives the pork belly a chance to absorb more flavor and 2) it will be easier to skim off the rendered fat.

[Gently reheat the left over with some braising liquid and serve over white rice. You won't regret it.]

Grilled two cheese pizza with prosciutto, arugula, and lemon vinaigrette.

Grilled two cheese pizza with prosciutto, arugula, and lemon oil.  Now that’s a mouthful of tasty goodness.  Today was a lazy Sunday, and I didn’t feel like spending an entire afternoon cooking in the kitchen.  I needed to catch up on my “So You Think You Can Dance” shows!  It was four shows behind!

So luckily, we had all the ingredients for our favorite pizza, fired up the grill, and voila!  Dinner was ready in 15 minutes.  It was the perfect lazy meal.  In fact, do you know how lazy dinner really was?  We bought ready-made pizza crust (not dough, just crust) a few months ago and kept it on hand in the freezer for days like these.  And now I’m sitting on my couch, typing this post, and catching up on my DVR’ed shows.  Life is good :)

1 homemade or store bought pizza dough (or ready-made pizza crust)
8 ounces of smoked mozzarella, cut into 1/4 thick slices
4 cups arugula leaves, packed (it seems like a lot now, but it gets wilted down during the cooking process)
8 slices of prosciutto
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon

Preheat grill. Brush grates with vegetable or corn oil.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Place arugula leaves into a large bowl, and dress it with the lemon vinaigrette. Toss to mix well. Set aside. [I know it may seem like a lot of arugula at this point, but it will wilt down during the cooking process.]

Roll out pizza dough according to your recipe or store bought instructions. Once the grill is hot (you can hold your hands an inch over the grates for no more than 2 or 3seconds), carefully place the pizza dough onto the grill. Grill for about two minutes on one side. The pizza dough will also immediately puff up. Flip the pizza dough onto the other side and grill for another two minutes. Remove from grill onto a cookie sheet with tongs. Close the lid of the grill to retain its heat. [If you are using a ready-made pizza crust, cook it for two minutes on each side to get the grill marks and flavor.]

Place slices of smoked mozzarella around top of the pizza crust. And then in this order, spread all of the arugula leaves around, layer with prosciutto slices, and top with crumbled goat cheese.

Place the cookie sheet onto the grill and close the lid. [This allows for the toppings to cook without burning the pizza crust.] Cook for about five minutes, or until the cheese has melted, the arugula has wilted, and the prosciutto has crisped up a little. Carefully remove the cookie sheet from the grill. Using tongs, slide pizza onto a cutting board. Squeeze some lemon juice over the pizza. Using a sharp knife or pizza slicer, slice the pizza and enjoy!

Oh my grilled cheeses, these are some tender baby back ribs that fall right off the bone!

I love me some ribs.  But I was too intimidated by the thought of cooking ribs on the grill.  I was afraid if I didn’t cook it properly, the meat was going to be dry and tough.  No.  Thank.  You.  I like me some ribs that fall right off the bone.

A few years ago we were invited over for a barbecue, and my friend’s husband made some ribs.  Oh my grilled cheeses.  The meat was so tender.  So juicy.  So flavorful.  I was intoxicated with love.  I asked what his secret was, and he looked over at his oven.  I thought he was joking.  So I asked him again what the secret was, and he chuckled.  This time, I knew he wasn’t kidding.  It really was his oven.  He told me that he hadn’t cooked ribs on the grill since being converted to the oven.  He said he swore by the oven method.  I was easily and immediately convinced.

The method to make the perfect ribs is low and slow.  Don’t bother setting the table with knives.  You’ll just be adding to the dishes to wash afterwards.  Seriously.  You can cut the meat with a fork.  Actually, forget the fork, too.  The meat just falls off the bone when you bite into the rib.

I wish I had me some ribs right now.

Baby Back Ribs that Fall Off the Bone

For dry rub:
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon cumin

4 to 5 pounds pork baby back ribs
1/2 cup bourbon
Your favorite barbecue sauce

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine the dry rub ingredients. Mix well.

Remove membrane from the underside of the ribs. Generously rub ribs with dry rub until evenly coated on all sides. Make sure to get it into every nook and cranny of the ribs. Pat gently to ensure the rub adheres to the ribs. Wrap in foil and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least four hours, but overnight, is best.

Heat grill to medium high heat.  Grill each rack of ribs to char meat for a little flavor, but also to sear in the juices, about 5 minutes. [Heck, you can even skip this step if you want to save some time, but I've found that the grilling adds an extra depth of flavor.  Just rub a little liquid smoke into the ribs before applying the dry rub.]

Pour bourbon into the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place ribs on roasting rack in roasting pan. Cover tightly with foil and cook for about 4 hours. Remove ribs carefully from roasting pan, and CAREFULLY unwrap foil. Coat ribs with your favorite barbecue sauce. Place back on roasting pan uncovered, and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes until the barbecue sauce caramelizes.

Slice rack of ribs into individual ribs. Serve hot with extra barbecue sauce for those dippers and/or who like them saucy!

Roasted Garlic, Bacon, and Onion Marmalade

For all the dog owners, if you didn’t already know, snail bait is EXTREMELY toxic to dogs (and cats).  Unfortunately, we found out the hard way, and one of our dogs ended up at the emergency vet the other night.  Bella, our pug, was tremoring and hyperactive, although she is always very hyper.  But this was unusual behavior for her.  She looked high.  I started to Google different search terms and found a hit for snail bait.  One website listed all the signs and symptoms of snail bait poisoning, and the first two matched what our pug was experiencing.  We called the emergency vet and immediately made our way there with our pug and the culprit… the box of snail bait.

The vet techs swooped up our pug from our arms and ran her back to the “hospital” without hesitation.  They put us in an exam room and we waited, and waited, and waited for the doctor.  It was only about 10 minutes before the doctor spoke with us, but it felt like an eternity.  We were extremely anxious, and wondering if *we* killed our dog.  It was the most nauseating feeling of not knowing what was happening or going to happen.  The doctor was very informative and patient with the number of questions we had.

With poisons and toxins, it is hard to predict the course of the illness, severity, and prognosis of the condition without knowing EXACTLY how much was taken.  At least with human ingestions, they can sometimes tell us exactly or at give us a close approximation of how much was taken, and we can predict (and I use that term loosely) the course of action with antidotes or supportive treatments.  Unfortunately, we had no idea how much of the snail bait Bella ingested.  So the doctor could not tell us what was going to happen, how long she was going to be sick, and if her clinical picture was going to deteriorate or improve.  The unknown scared the living hell out of us.  But the doctor reassured us that her and her team were going to do everything to stabilize her.

We waited around for about an hour until we got an update.  The vet said that Bella had calmed down with methocarbamol and diazepam, a muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety/sedative, respectively.  They provided her with fluids, oxygen, and diazepam as needed. They assured us that they were going to keep a close eye on her through the night.  They even let us say good night to Bella before we left the pet ER, since they had strict visitation hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

We left feeling comforted, at ease, and less anxious because we knew Bella was in good hands, if that makes any sense.  The staff were so friendly and informative, that we just knew they were going to provide excellent care for our little four-legged girl.  The vet called us the next morning and gave us an update that Bella was doing well, oxygenating, and less tremulous and anxious after a few more doses of medications.  She even told us that she might be ready to be picked up later that afternoon!  And we did!  I’m happy to report that Bella is back to her hyper and happy self :)

Fortunately and thankfully, I feel like we caught Bella’s signs and symptoms of snail bait toxicity early enough, albeit she was really sick and had to be hospitalized, has fully recovered.  The cost of the ER visit with medications, X-rays, oxygen, IV fluids, and etc costed us $2000, but well worth it to have our furry little girl back home with us!

We intentionally left our box of snail bait with the pet ER.  Never again are we going to buy that toxic stuff.  If you need snail bait, get the pet-friendly kind.  I hear there are home remedies, too, such as a pie tin filled with beer.  But we’ve decided to make friends with the snails and forego any kind bait, pet-friendly or not.

Roasted Garlic, Bacon, and Onion Marmalade

2 heads of garlic
3 slices bacon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 large yellow onions, sliced
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the top of the garlic bulbs using a knife, leaving the tops of the individual garlic cloves exposed. Place garlic bulb on top of a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to wrap the whole garlic bulb. Drizzle with two teaspoons of olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt, and wrap foil tightly. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the feel soft when pressed.

Allow the garlic to cool enough so you can touch it without burning yourself. Use a fork or your fingers to pull or squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins. For large roasted garlic cloves, chop coarsely.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon slices and cook until the fat has been rendered, and the bacon is crispy. Remove bacon and place onto a paper towel-lined plate. Once cool to handle, crumble the bacon into coarse crumbles.

In the same skillet with the bacon fat, add the onions and saute until the onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to just medium to medium-low, add water, cover with a lid and cook until the onions turn an amber golden brown. You will need to stir occasionally, until done, about 45 minutes.

Add the crumbled bacon, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, thyme, roasted garlic cloves, salt and pepper, and deglaze the pan and cook until most of the moisture is gone. Once cooled, pour into a container and keep refrigerated.

Makes 1 1/2 cups of jam.

Lechon Asado (Cuban Roast Pork)

I wish there was such a thing as “smell-a-vision” because I would love for you to smell the lechon asado roasting in the oven.  The smell of citrus, garlic, onion, and pork is permeating through the house.  It’s intoxicating.

We just got back from a week vacation to NYC visiting my brother and sister-in-law.  A restaurant that we were excited to cross off our NYC foodie bucket list was Cafe Habana in the Nolita (North of Little Italy) District.  The restaurant was featured specifically for their grilled corn (read the restaurant review) on Food Networks’ “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”  We went there for dinner and it ended up being one of the best meals we ate in NYC, and trust me, we ate a lot of great meals.  I had the cuban sandwich was to die for.

The sandwich inspired me to recreate this dish at home.  So I starting marinating the pork butt yesterday afternoon, and it is now slowly roasting in our oven.

Lechon Asado (from 3 Guys from Miami)

3 pounds pork butt/shoulder
20 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups sour orange juice (or use two parts orange juice to one part lemon juice to one part lime juice)
1 cup onion, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 cup Spanish olive oil

Mash the garlic and salt together with a mortar and pestle.

Add dried oregano, onion, and the sour orange juice to the mash and mix thoroughly.

Pierce pork as many times as you can with a sharp knife or fork.

Heat oil in a small sauce pan, add the mash to the oil and whisk.

Pour garlic mixture (save a little for roasting) over pork, cover and let sit in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or preferably overnight.

To roast in the oven, preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the pork, fattest side up, in an open roasting pan. Place pan in oven and reduce temperature to 225 degrees F. Spoon extra marinade over the roast occasionally as it cooks. Using a meat thermometer, roast should be removed from the oven when the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees F. — for fork tender, “pulled-pork” quality. (If you want a roast you can slice, remove when the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F.)

Immediately cover with foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing or shredding.

Serve with rice, Cuban black beans, and sweet plantains… or better yet, make a Cuban sandwich!

What’s your favorite way of enjoying lechon asado?

Roasted Asparagus Bundles Wrapped with Prosciutto

Do you ever stress out about what you’ll bring to a potluck-style dinner?  I know I shouldn’t, but I am one big stress ball.  I never know what to bring.  I know I want to bring something that I hope everyone will like.  But also because I want to wow them with flavors when the food hits their taste buds.  My partner thinks I’m silly for stressing out.  She always suggests that I bring something that I’ve made before at home that tasted good.  And I know I should do that also, but I’m too stubborn to listen.  So instead, I’ll spend hours upon hours looking for the right recipe.  And when I do happen to find the right recipe, I stress over whether or not the final product will be good enough for the potluck.  I always imagine the worst case scenario.  What if I goof up during the cooking process?  What if I didn’t get enough of this or that?  What if it comes out dry or ugly or both?  What if it’s too salty?  So I’ll remind myself to do a test run before the actual day.  But do I ever?  Nope.  I wait to the last minute and run out of time to do a test run so I get even more anxious.  Yes.  I know.  I’m crazy.

After perusing numerous recipes, I decided upon stuffed bell peppers.  Well, I didn’t actually end up making the stuffed bell peppers.  I talked myself out of it.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  I was in no mood to make a trek out to the grocery store.  I wanted to be lazy.  Besides, I was already feeling very accomplished after my three hour adventure in the kitchen baking mini german chocolate cakes.  So what did I end up doing?  My classic, go-to easy side dish… roasted asparagus bundles wrapped with prosciutto.  I still had to make a trip to the grocery store, but I was only in the kitchen for 20 minutes.  The irony… it was stress-free :)  I guess I should listen to my partner more often.

Roasted Asparagus Bundles Wrapped with Prosciutto

1 to 1.5 pound of asparagus (about 24 stalks), trimmed
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 thin slices of prosciutto

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Snap the dry, woody stems off each asparagus. Wrap a slice of prosciutto for every three asparagus stalks. I find it easiest to wrap the asparagus when the prosciutto is cold (i.e., removing the prosciutto from the refrigerator right as you are going to assemble the asparagus bundles). Place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt (just a little bit since the prosciutto is salty) and freshly ground black pepper. Roast until the asparagus is tender, about 10-15 minutes. The latter really depends on your own oven. Let it cool until it reaches room temperature, and serve with lemon wedges.

A couple of different spins on this recipe: 1) you could wrap the asparagus bundles with prosciutto after the asparagus has roasted; 2) shaved parmesan or grated parmesan onto the wrapped asparagus.

Serves: 8

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,497 other followers