Roast Pork Loin with Blood Orange and Red Onions

Pork Loin with Blood Orange and Onions2

When I still lived back in Michigan, there were two places that I lived without that have now become a rather significant part of my grocery shopping/cooking experience:

Trader Joe’s, and the Whole Foods Market.

My hometown doesn’t have a Trader Joe’s and up until a few MONTHS before I moved, it didn’t have a Whole Foods either. Now that I’ve lived on the West coast for nearly a year (whoa, canNOT believe it’s been that long already),  I really don’t know how I did without them–especially Trader Joe’s.

In the first place TJ’s brand of foods is pretty awesome; I highly recommend their hummus, cauliflower rice, ginger snaps, vanilla wafers, and of course, the friggin cookie butter. In the second, the produce you get from there (even when it’s non-organic) I’ve just found to taste A LOT better than the produce you can get in regular grocery stores. The difference is absolutely worth splitting our grocery runs into multiple places to get the produce there and everything else at Target or the like.

My newfound love of Whole Foods has come because of my discovery that they sell certain ingredients that I previously had never seen in grocery stores in the Mitten. I know that the ‘Whole Foods Whole Paycheck’ jokes are gonna flow, but I will also say that they have a bulk spice assortment that is pretty inexpensive; especially when you’ve walked down a spice aisle and seen a 4 oz jar of a spice that can run anywhere between $6-14. (I wish I was kidding, but my fellow cooks know I’m dead serious).

One of the ingredients that I’ve since found in Whole Foods, and is extremely relevant to today’s post is the blood orange.

Don’t freak out. This has nothing to do with blood. The blood orange is a variety of the orange citrus fruit and is so called because whereas the inner flesh/pulp of the orange is…orange, blood orange inner flesh is a dark crimson red–y’know, like blood. The flavor is also far more intense; I would describe the taste like a VERY tart raspberry or an extremely sweet, slightly less bitter grapefruit. I first heard of blood orange from watching an episode of Iron Chef America several years ago, and the mystery ingredient(s) used in the battle were an assortment of conventional and unconventional citrus fruits. One of the chefs used blood oranges in their dishes and I was intrigued as to how the sweet fruit would work in a savory dish.

That curiosity stuck with me up until the day I was picking up some spices from Whole Foods and suddenly noticed that they had blood oranges in their produce section (because, of course they did). I remembered how I had always wanted to try them and decided to just go ahead and take a chance.

Pork loin is a very inexpensive cut of meat, and I know from past experience, including from other recipes on the blog, that quite a bit of fruits (like apples and peaches) pair wonderfully with it. For that reason I decided to let a pork loin roast with blood orange as the main flavor be my introduction to not only cooking with blood orange, but tasting it in general.

I love when my cooking curiosity pays off–especially when it means I get to share with you all.

I really enjoyed this. First, blood oranges are very tasty. I think I may even like their flavor a tad bit better than regular oranges. Second, combined with the right flavors, they absolutely do work in a savory dish, much like this one. The seasoning on the pork itself is balanced with the addition of fresh rosemary, sweet paprika, garlic and coriander to cut some of the sweetness of the blood orange. The sauce is my favorite part: it manages to still have that noticeable tartness from the blood orange, but also has a sweet and tangy flavor from the addition of white wine, Dijon mustard, among other ingredients. Put them together and you have an easy meal that you can brag about to your friends who til now may have never even heard of blood orange before themselves.

Sharing at the Fiesta Friday #181, co-hosted this week by CH @ Cooking From My Heart and Nimmi @ Adorable Life.

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Roast Pork Loin with Blood Orange and Red Onions

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

For Pork

  • 3 1/2 to 4 pound boneless pork loin
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive, vegetable or canola oil
  • Zest and juice of 4 blood oranges
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • Seasoned salt and pepper
  • 3 red onions, quartered into large chunks

For Blood Orange Sauce

  • Juice of 8 blood oranges (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 honey
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • A few dashes of fish sauce
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • Seasoned salt and pepper

 

Directions

In a small bowl combine the oil, zest, juice, garlic, rosemary, coriander, sweet paprika, onion powder, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Mix until it forms a loose paste, then rub the paste over the pork loin evenly on both sides. Place in a Ziploc bag or a sealable plastic container and refrigerate at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Remove the pork from the fridge and allow to sit for 1 hour to come to room temp. Heat about one tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium high heat. Sear the pork on both sides about 3-5 minutes per side until a browned crust forms.

Place a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of a roasting pan or sheet tray, then place a wire rack over that. Spray lightly with cooking spray then place the pork on top of the rack. Roast in the oven on the lower rack until a thermometer inserted into the middle reads 145°, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: combine the juice, white wine, golden raisins, sugar, honey, rosemary, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the Dijon mustard in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and allow to reduce until syrupy and slightly thickened, about 30-35 minutes. Take off the heat and add the remaining mustard and the vinegar. Set aside until pork is ready.

Line another sheet pan with aluminum foil. Toss the onions with about 2 tablespoons of the sauce, then season with salt and pepper. Roast on the top rack until softened and just about to char, about 25 minutes. Set aside until pork is finished.

Allow the pork to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the sauce and red onions.

Cookies n’ Cream Layer Cake

There is a tangible difference in food that’s been made with care and love versus food that’s been made without them and don’t you let anyone tell you there isn’t. Anyone who says there isn’t has never had food made for them with love, and that’s truly unfortunate. When I was younger, I thought it just boiled down to some people were good cooks and some people weren’t–now that I’m older and that I’ve learned how to cook and bake rather well myself I understand that it’s a bit more complicated than that.

I’ve eaten in swank restaurants where the food was both expensive and undoubtedly delicious, but given the choice I still would’ve rather been in my grandma’s house eating a dish of her smothered steak and gravy.  I would take her Lemon Pound Cake over the most pricey, fancy souffle from the best pastry chef in the world ANY DAY.

Know why? Because regardless of whether or not the fancy food tastes delicious, I know for a fact that there is more love for ME personally in her dishes than anything a chef that doesn’t know me from Eve can put into his food, no matter how technically flawless it is. It may sound corny, but for me, food made with love tastes like home; the taste that gives you the ‘itis’ where you’re full, satisfied, and want to take a nap afterwards, then wake up and have a little bit more.

The only thing more gratifying for me than eating food made with love is being the one to make it for my loved ones, especially when it’s a special request/favorite of theirs. Because I know them, I know exactly what they want and how they’re going to want the food to taste and that knowledge makes me all the more determined to put as much care and consideration into what I’m doing to make sure the food meets their anticipation for it. My fellow food bloggers/cooks out there will know the immense feeling of satisfaction that comes with watching someone you love eat and rave over their favorite food and know that YOU were the one to make it for them. It’s a wonderful thing.

My twin sister came out to visit us a few months ago. There’s little to nothing that I don’t know about her, including the fact that she loves practically ANYTHING cookies and cream flavored. The Cookies and Cream flavor is best described as that of the Oreo sandwich cookie: a sweet vanilla base mixed with chocolate. She mostly eats ice cream, and we very well could’ve just got a pint of it to keep in the freezer but when she booked her flight to come out here I decided to make something that was bit more special than ice cream to surprise her with.

This may be the easiest layer cake I’ve ever made. Unlike most others that have lengthy ingredients and complex instructions this cake is so simple it doesn’t even require a standing or hand held mixer. If you’ve got a large bowl, a whisk (or even a fork), you can make this cake and have it baking in the oven in less than ten minutes, no joke. The recipe that I included does give instructions for making whipped cream from scratch. However. In the case that you don’t have a standing or handheld mixer….lean in closer. A little bit closer. Little bit closer.

*whisper*  You can buy pre-made cool whip that you thaw and it will still work out fine.

The finished product is what is probably the most “Cookies and Cream”-y thing I’ve ever seen or tasted. Normally I’m not even a huge fan of chocolate cake, but the combination of the cake with the cookies and cream whipped cream filling just really works. The cake texture itself is very moist, the chocolate flavor isn’t overwhelming and there’s a fluffiness in the whipped cream that adds lightness to the cake that cuts some of its richness. Then again, I DID make it with lots of love. That was bound to have an effect on the tastebuds.

Sharing this cake at this week’s Fiesta Friday #180  co-hosted this week by Tracey @ My Baja Kitchen and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Cookies n' Cream Layer Cake

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For Whipped Cream

  • 50 Oreo cookies
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9 inch cake pans with cooking spray, then line with wax or parchment paper; spray the paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt with a fork or wire whisk and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla and beat with a fork or a whisk. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones and mix thoroughly.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and place the pans on a large sheet pan. Bake in the oven until cake separates from the sides of the pans and a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.

Allow cakes to cool in pans for about ten minutes, then turn out and allow to cool completely on wire racks.

Take a knife and cut 10 of the Oreos in half and set aside. Put the rest of the cookies in a Ziploc plastic bag and use a rolling pin or the bottom of a glass to crush into crumbs.

In a mixing bowl beat the heavy cream in 2 batches, 2 cups at a time until the cream has stiff peaks. Beat the vanilla and powdered sugar in with the second batch, then combine them together. Reserve about 3/4 cup of whipped cream in a small bowl in the fridge.  Gently fold in all but about 1 cup of the crushed Oreo cookie crumbs with a spatula.

Level both cakes so that they are flat on the tops. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on the platter.  Spread about half of the Oreo whipped cream onto the cake, then place the second cake layer on top. Use a spatula to cover the tops and sides of the cakes with a thin layer of the cream, then refrigerate for about 1 hour until the layer is firm, to allow a crumb coat to form.

Place the rest of the cookie cream on top and on the sides of the cake. Take the reserved cookie crumbs and press evenly onto the sides of the cake with your fingers. (This may get a little messy so you can place a layer of foil or wax paper underneath the cake to pick up any of the spare crumbs.) Take the Oreos you’ve sliced in half and press onto the top of the cake. Remove the bottom strips of parchment paper. Take the reserved whipped cream and pipe small rosettes in between the sliced Oreos and along the bottom of the cake to form a border. You can also place one whole Oreo in the center of the cake and pipe rosettes around that, if you like.

Refrigerate for about 1 hour to allow whipped cream to set before slicing and serving. Keep cake refrigerated when not eating.

Five Spice Fried Chicken and Cornmeal Ginger Biscuits

So. Apparently, yesterday was National Fried Chicken Day, and not a single one of you told me ahead of time so I could get this post up sooner.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, guys–VERY disappointed.

If you’ve been following me for a while then you KNOW how seriously I take fried chicken. There are few foods that I love more, I’m ALWAYS down for it, and as I’ve said in previous posts: I worked very hard and practiced quite a lot to become one of the cookers of fried chicken that I know. I wear it like a badge of honor. Everyone loves my fried chicken. Everyone.

For a long time, whenever I made it I mainly stuck to one recipe/technique that I shared a while ago on the blog. It’s definitely still a winner that I highly recommend, but I also recently decided to start experimenting with different flavors to see if I could put a different kind of twist to the standard ‘flavor’ of salty/peppery flour and egg mix that most fried chicken recipes have. The first experiment I did was with this Mexican rendition of fried chicken where the chicken was marinated in oregano-spiced buttermilk, then dipped in a flour mix containing cumin and chili powder; spices both used heavily in Mexican cuisine. Because I MUST eat biscuits with my fried chicken, I also included a recipe for drop biscuits that I flavored with mixed dried herbs.

I’m happy to report back to you guys that I’ve found yet another twist to give to my precious meal of fried chicken and biscuits that’s every bit as delicious as it looks. This time it’s given an Asian flair, with several differences to both the flavors and techniques that I’m used to when making the dish.

First, whereas most chicken is soaked overnight in buttermilk before frying, here it’s instead marinaded in a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger and Chinese five spice powder. I was skeptical of this at first for a couple reasons:  buttermilk is supposed to be what keeps the meat moist and since I strictly use chicken breasts, this is key to me. Second, sesame oil is a VERY potent ingredient where a little usually goes a long way.

The second change that I noticed was first that the wet wash contained not only rice flour (something I’ve previously only baked with and never for savory dishes) but a LOT of cornstarch. More cornstarch than I think I’ve ever used in a single dish, ever. I do know that some fried chicken recipes use cornstarch because it helps the breading stick to the chicken and not slide off. I’ve scooped a tablespoon or two into my dry flour mixes before myself. But this time, the rice flour and cornstarch are used in the wet wash, which I thought was different. However, I decided to go with the recipe and just…see what happened.

These biscuits are probably the most ‘out there’ biscuits I’ve ever made. I could’ve just made standard herb biscuits with this dish and it would’ve turned out fine. However, because I was giving the fried chicken an Asian twist, I wanted to see if I could successfully do the same thing with the biscuits. The first change to them is that there is a generous amount of cornmeal in the dough. The second modification I did was to add two spices to the dough which I thought would give it those Asian flavors I was looking for without being too overpowering: Chinese five spice powder and ground ginger.

This meal was so good, guys. In the first place, this is one of the best fried chicken batters, ever. The crust is sturdy and crunchy, and all that cornstarch is a godsend: the breading doesn’t go anywhere, not even when it’s cooled off. You can taste the flavor of the sesame oil marinade but it isn’t overpowering. The ginger and five spice gives it an aromatic spicy-sweet flavor that’s a good compliment to the saltiness of the breading. Because the biscuits have cornmeal in them, they have a slightly coarser texture, a darker color and (my favorite part) a crustier exterior that makes them have the texture of both biscuits AND cornbread (my other staple side with fried chicken). The ginger and five spice give it that same spicy-sweet flavor that’s in the aftertaste of the chicken.  The only thing that made this even better was when I sliced a biscuit, sandwiched the chicken between two halves, then drizzled the whole thing with honey and Sriracha. Yum.

I was VERY pleased with how this dish turned out and am amped to be able to share it with all of you here, and at Fiesta Friday #179, co-hosted this week by  Petra @ Food Eat Love and Laura @ Feast Wisely.

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Five Spice Fried Chicken & Cornmeal Ginger Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart

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Ingredients

For Chicken Marinade

  • About 3 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in halves
  • 6 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese 5 spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne or black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced or grated ginger 

For Assembly

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Lawry’s or other seasoning salt
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • Vegetable, Canola or Peanut oil for frying (4-6 cups)

For Biscuits

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1 cup buttermilk (plus more as needed)

 

Directions

For Chicken: Place the chicken in re-sealable Ziploc bag(s). In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, five spice powder, garlic powder, cayenne or black pepper and minced ginger. Pour this over the chicken, seal the bag and massage the bag with your hands until chicken is thoroughly coated with marinade inside. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

In a medium size, shallow bowl/baking dish, combine the all purpose flour with the seasoning salt and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, rice flour, five spice, and water with a large whisk or flour until thoroughly combined (it’ll be thick, like tempura batter).

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard it. Dip each piece of chicken in the shallow dish of all purpose flour with a fork to get a light dusting on both sides, then dip it into batter, holding it up to allow some of the excess to drip off. Then, re dip it into the all purpose flour until the wet batter is sufficiently covered. Place the chicken on the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Work in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

For Biscuits: Preheat oven to 400°.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, five spice powder and ginger with a fork. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the bowl . Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Sugar Cookies

vanilla-sugar-cookies1

Our current location is pretty convenient for several reasons. First, there’s a park nearby that me and my niece have gone to at least once a week since we moved out here. Second, we live a hop, skip and a jump away from a pretty dope children’s museum that my niece has become very fond of. Because the weather here’s been so hot and pretty much unbearable to play outside, we’ve been spending quite a bit of time at it. It’s a very nice museum, but it’s certainly not the biggest one that we’ve ever taken her to. You’d think that after going two or three times, a kid would get tired of it.

But…nope. Not ours.

The museum has the option to purchase what’s called a family membership where after paying one lump sum, you can go to the museum as many times as you like for an entire year. After our first two visits, her mother decided that she’d just go ahead and gift her with a membership. That way, on days when she doesn’t want to go to the park, or when stormy or hot weather doesn’t permit us to go (like nowadays) she still has a way to get out of the house and have some fun.

And boy, does she have fun. It’s become kind of amusing for me to see her go through the same exhibits, play with the same toys, see the exact same things and never seem to get tired of it–like, ever. Each time we go is like the first time for her.  In fact, she’s already asked me if we can go back there on Monday. I figure it beats standing out in the hot sun on a playground that has little to no trees for shade.

I said sure; why not?

Now that I think about it, I can’t really blame my niece for loving the museum that much. I can be like that in other ways about other things.

For instance, oh well…sugar cookies. I think my unending love and obsession for the sugar cookie has been well documented on this blog. There is no dessert or sweet that I love more. No matter how many different ones I’ve made, I’m always willing to try another recipe and try to either improve it or give it another creative twist.

Today’s recipe is kinda like yet another one of my niece’s visits to the museum: I’m showing up with yet another sugar cookie recipe. You all will not only deal, you will love it.

Ever since I bought my Springerle Cookie molds, I’ve developed a small obsession with making stamped/imprinted cookies.  They’re a really quick way to give your cookies a lift aesthetically and with some practice I’ve gotten pretty decent at getting the results that I want. The problem with Springerle molds is that because each one is hand carved, they’re not cheap. Right now I’ve only got two and because I wanted to widen my collection of cookie stamps, I knew I would have to try and find a cheaper alternative. A little digging on Amazon led me to some perfectly nice rubber ones from Tovolo. They came in a set of one plunger that fit three rubber stamps that could be switched out alternatively.

I used one of the stamps in the Tovolo set to make these very simple, but still sooooo delicious sugar cookies. Sugar cookies are one of the foods I love most. Baking itself is therapeutic for me, so I think that love just goes into it naturally. The stamp of choice just seemed appropriate. I would like to say though that although I used one for this recipe, these cookies DO NOT require you to use them for it to work. If you’re like me and are also obsessed with sugar cookies–especially ones heavily flavored with vanilla- but don’t have a cookie stamp, don’t worry about it. You can still make un-stamped but still perfectly fine vanilla sugar cookies. And I gotta say, in addition to being simple to put together, these ARE also pretty perfect.

Provided you roll the dough thick enough, these bake up soft and slightly chewy. The flavor I used was vanilla because that’s what I think works best with sugar cookies, but if there’s another flavor you’re fond of, like lemon or almond, I think that would work just as well.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #178.

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Vanilla Sugar Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Nordic Ware

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 2/ 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix just until combined.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt with a fork. Add this in batches to the wet ingredients, mixing just until combined.

Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour and up to overnight. Take out for about 10-20 minutes to allow to soften a little.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll dough out on a clean and floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Dip your cookie stamps into powdered sugar, then tap to remove excess. Press firmly into the dough. Use a slightly larger round cookie cutter to cut out shape, then transfer to cookie sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.*

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 30-45 minutes. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, just until bottoms start to turn golden brown. Allow to set on sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

(Note: You don’t HAVE to use cookie stamps for this recipe. I think it would work just as well without it. Use whatever cookie cutters you have, or shape the dough into a log, freeze for about 30 minutes, then cut into slices and bake as directed. Also,  no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Chicken Bulgogi

It is hot.

I don’t think y’all heard me the first time, so let me say it again for the people in the back.

It.is.HOT. Unbearably hot. I am not okay with this.

I’ve never been one that does well in extreme heat. It’s not a pretty picture. For one, it makes me straight up cranky. I start sweating, which makes me feel gross.  My hair gets frizzy at the roots, and other Black women will know just why and how much of a problem this is for styling & manageability. My sinuses swell and my nose starts getting congested so it’s harder for me to breathe. It’s pretty miserable.

This is also an apt description of the weather here for the past week. The upper 80’s are already uncomfortable when you’re standing or walking in the sun without any shade. This week, the temperatures climbed all the way up into the mid to upper 90’s, and today, peaked in the 100’s.

Normally, I try to take my niece out for at least a few hours a day to play outside in a park nearby our apartment, or we’ll go downtown to the library, then walk back home. Needless to say, our plans for this week were disrupted by the heatwave. Even if the mere idea of going out in that kind of heat didn’t make me want to melt, it’s just too hot to take a small kid out in without the risk of them getting dehydrated or heat stroke. So, we switched up the routine a bit and spent some time in Berkeley where my sister’s working for the summer, where the temperatures are MUCH cooler. The U of C campus there is very pretty and she was able to ride her scooter around on it.

With such extreme weather, I’m sure that the very last thing most of us in the States feel like doing is switching on an oven, whether you have air conditioning or not. I’m certainly not gonna do it. Fortunately, today’s recipe doesn’t require you to.

Let’s just get the obvious question out of the way first, shall we? For those who don’t know off the bat (and no, I didn’t know either before cooking it myself) it’s pronounced BOOL-GO-GEE. It refers to a Korean dish where the protein is sliced thin, marinated, then cooked over high heat over a grill or on a stove top. The marinade usually has soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic in it, and is usually also slightly spicy.

There are several Korean restaurants in our area, but I thought that a nice way to introduce us to bulgogi, rather than pick a random spot we found on Yelp and hope for the best, would be to instead follow the basic guidelines for it in terms of the process and form a recipe suited to our tastes who’s ingredients still qualified as ‘bulgogi-fied’. That way, I could make adjustments to fit our palates, not waste money and still come out with a good result.

The most obvious change I’ve made from a traditional bulgogi is that I’ve used chicken rather than the typical beef or pork.  You guys already know I’ll swap chicken in for just about anything if I can get away with it, and I really do think I got away with it here. The flavors of the marinade I think would work well with any meat and white bird meat is usually more inexpensive than red cow or pink pig.

I usually set my meat in an overnight marinade to let the flavors really absorb into the meat but if you’re crunched for time or trying to make this into a weeknight dinner, I think a quick marinade would still get the job done and deliver results that everyone will like. The sauce that gets drizzled on top of the chicken is outstanding: it’s got that earthy saltiness from the soy sauce and added fish sauce, the sweet from the brown sugar and mirin, then it’s given just enough of a kick from the ginger and five spice. Some people like to eat their bulgogi over rice. We ate ours in tacos shells, drizzled with some of the glorious sauce and some shredded carrots and green onions. I even added some spicy kimchi on top of mine: it really was a PERFECT bite.

Sharing this at Fiesta Friday #177, co-hosted by Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook. Stay cool guys!

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Chinese Bulgogi

Recipe Adapted from FoodNetwork.com

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Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into strips
  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • A few dashes of fish sauce
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese fivespice
  • 6 scallions,plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Vegetable or canola Oil
  • Tortilla shells for serving
  • Shredded cabbage or lettuce, matchstick carrots, daikon radish, for serving (optional)

 

Directions

Place the chicken in a gallon size re-sealable Ziploc bag.

In a blender combine the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, sesame oil, fish sauce, garlic cloves, minced ginger, five spice and 6 scallions. Puree until smooth.

Set aside about half of the marinade in a bowl. Pour the other half over the chicken. Seal the bag securely and shake, making sure to coat the chicken evenly with the marinade. Refrigerate overnight or at least three hours.

Heat vegetable or canola oil over medium high heat in a large Dutch oven or non-stick skillet. Add the chicken in batches, frying in the pan until golden brown and crisp at the edges. When finished, place in a bowl and keep the bowl covered with aluminum foil.

Strain the remaining marinade to rid of excess bits, then place in a small saucepan over high heat. Whisk in the cornstarch and allow to cook until reduced and thickened into a sauce, about 10-15 minutes.

Spoon the chicken into tortilla shells and garnish with cabbage, carrots, radishes, scallions or desired toppings.

Malinda Russell’s Washington Cake

Gather round guys. Hi(story) lesson time.

The ‘official’ independence day for the United States is July 4th, as the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain was signed by the colonists of the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776. However, if we’re going to get down to brass tacks, the facts are these: freedom in the colonies was at that  time only extended to white men and women; the independence/emancipation of the sizable population of Africans who had been stolen from their homes & transported to the colonies through the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were not included in the Constitution, nor were they granted their freedom after the Revolutionary War.

A widely held belief is that the Emancipation Proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln authorized and put into effect in 1863 during the Civil War is what ultimately freed the slaves. This is somewhat inaccurate.  The official laws of the post-Civil War United States did not grant freedom to all African Americans until the ratification of the 13th amendment in 1865, almost 90 years after the Revolutionary War (and even then, there was still a loophole to that amendment if the individual had committed a crime, see Ava Duvernay’s “13th” documentary on Netflix for more on that). Without getting too bogged down into historical details, I’ll just say this: the EP was a military tactic that specifically freed slaves in the Southern rebel Confederate states that had committed treason against the Union and were then considered enemy territory, but had been won and occupied by the Union Army during the war. It left out slaves within the border states as well as territory within 3 Confederate states that were under Union control.

Why am I saying all of this?

Well, next Monday will be June 19th.  Even though the Emancipation had taken effect on January 1st 1863, the slaves in the state of Texas, widely isolated from the North and Southern parts of the country did not even receive word of it until June 19th 1865, after the Civil War had ended and President Lincoln had been assassinated. Many of these freed people of Texas commemorated June 19th as the day of their emancipation and made it one of celebration and religious ceremonies. Like any other celebration, this included good food.

(There’s a point to all of this, and I’m getting to it now, I swear.)

Malinda Russell was an African American woman born in 1820 in the state of Tennessee. Because her grandmother was freed by her owner, her subsequent children and grandchildren were also freed. By her account, Malinda wanted to immigrate to Liberia where there was a colony of former African American slaves, but was robbed by one of her traveling companions & forced to stay in Virginia. She worked there and in Tennessee again as a washerwoman, nurse, cook, and later kept a pastry shop. After this, she moved to Michigan where she published “A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen ” in 1866. The pamphlet that Malinda published became the first cook book published by a Black woman in the United States.

As an African American, I am the descendant of slaves myself on both sides of my family, so the date/celebration of June 19th, holds a particular historical significance to me. Second, like Mrs. Russell,  I’m a Black woman from Michigan who loves to cook/bake, and can do it rather well. (I’d also love to write a cookbook of my own one day, knock on wood)

Her story resonates with me. Her food resonates with me. Therefore, I decided I would pay tribute to the lady, her story and her food in this post.

This is, hands down, one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. The texture inside is SO tender and moist. When I first took it out of the oven, I was concerned that despite being the right temperature, I’d under-baked it because it seemed a little wet in the center of the tube. Nope. It wasn’t underdone in the slightest. It was just perfect.

I can’t claim to have altered this recipe too much; it’s practically perfect enough all on its own. My personal modification was to add orange zest and juice to the batter to give a citrus flavor to what’s already a dynamite butter cake, then add an icing also flavored with orange juice. If you’d like to try another citrus, like lemon, lime, (heck maybe even grapefruit), I think you’d get equally wonderful results.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #176, co-hosted this week by  Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Malinda Russell's Washington Cake

Recipe Adapted from “American Cake” by Anne Byrn

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temp
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 2-3 teaspoons milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan and set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl. Beat until light and fluffy on medium speed, about 1 minute. With mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and salt beat until mixture becomes light and creamy again. Make sure to frequently scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure even mixing.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 15 seconds each. Turn mixer off.
In a small bowl combine the baking soda with the buttermilk. In a medium size bowl combine the flour with the cream of tartar. Alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture to the butter-egg mixture; start AND end with the flour and be sure to remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula to ensure even mixing. Fold in the orange juice and zest last, stirring until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing with a spatula. Tap the pan a few times on the counter top to help prevent air bubbles.
Place on middle rack of oven and bake until the top of the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out just clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. (Pound cakes are done at an inner temp of around a 195-200°. Fahrenheit)
Allow to cool in pan for about 25-30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar with the orange juice and just enough of the milk to make a thick icing. Use the tines of a fork to drizzled on top of the cake, then allow icing to harden completely.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Biscotti

chocolate-chip-cookie-sticks1

When I first started baking cookies, I used to get frustrated a lot. I really wasn’t that good at it for a while. I hit a lot of…speed bumps that would get in the way of me getting the results that I wanted.

These speed bumps varied from recipe to recipe but if I had to rank them, I’d say that the number one issue I would have MOST frequently is spreading.

Just about all of my cookies would spread into flat, thin pancakes. I absolutely HATED it.  To this day the memory is triggering.

For some recipes, flat cookies (although not aesthetically pleasing) aren’t so bad and will pass. However, when it comes to others, a flat disk just won’t do for looks or taste.

If you look up practically any cookie recipe on this blog, I’m just about positive that the directions will direct you to chill the dough in the fridge for at least one hour before baking. I’ve intentionally modified recipes I’ve read elsewhere and chilled my dough even when they do not direct to just because from my experience, most traditional drop, cutout or rolled cookie doughs DO need to be chilled at least a little while to minimize spreading and give them the right height and lift.  They just do. Trust me on this, guys. If your cookies frequently spread in the oven, start chilling the dough in the fridge for at least an hour, bake, then get back to me and tell me that it didn’t help your results.

Off the top of my head, I can only think of maybe…two or three instances where I made cookies that I didn’t refrigerate the dough and still got the results I wanted. The subject of today’s recipe is one of those exceptions: biscotti. Why doesn’t biscotti need to be chilled? Well for one, the dough isn’t nearly as wet as other cookie doughs. Wet/moist cookie dough makes cookies that spread in the oven. (Remember that for other recipes; this why chilling them in the fridge helps.)

Biscotti dough is usually first shaped into an oblong mass on a sheet pan, then baked as a whole in the oven until just set. After that, it’s removed and given some time to cool. From there, what would be a giant soft cookie is then sliced into straight or diagonal sticks that are then baked a second time. During this second bake, all of the residual moisture is dried out of the biscotti, giving them that traditional crisp, crunchy texture.

So far as I’m concerned, I think there is but one downside to making chocolate chip cookies from scratch: the resting period in the fridge, which also means that whenever I make them, I’ll have to plan ahead a day in advance to satisfy my craving. This isn’t always ideal. That’s one of the reasons why this recipe is so awesome: it’s a CCC recipe where there’s absolutely no chilling time required and there’s also no need to worry about that pesky spreading problem.

Like traditional biscotti, this dough is first baked in one mass. I spread it in a glass square baking dish, which did help to give the outer edges more definition–if/when you try this, just make sure you line your pan with aluminum foil so that when you have to take it out to slice, it’s one easy lift. After the slicing, the individual biscotti are arrayed onto a sheet pan and baked off for a second time. They won’t spread. Promise. The first bake took care of that problem. This second one is just to take them out of that realm of ‘soft chocolate chip cookies’ to crispy, crunchy chocolate chip flavored biscotti.

Traditional Italian biscotti is intentionally made so crispy that it HAS to be dunked in a cup of coffee or tea just to soften the tight, crunchy crumb enough to bite. These biscotti are certainly not as tough as all that. However, with this recipe I’ve now given you an excuse to essentially, eat a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast alongside your morning cup of Joe or Earl Grey.

You’re welcome.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #175, co-hosted this week by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Suzanne @ A Pug in the Kitchen.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Biscotti

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces (about 1 cup) coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate

 

Directions

Line a 13 x 9 square pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and shortening for about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and baking soda and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about another 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, all while scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure even mixing.

Add the flour in batches, mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate as best you can.

Spray your spatula with cooking spray, or sprinkle and rub both sides with flour. Spread and press the cookie dough in an even layer in the pan. Bake in the oven for 22 to 25 minutes, until set and the edges are golden brown.

Cool in the pan for one hour. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Use the edges of the foil or parchment paper to lift out of the pan. Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to cut the baked dough into strips/logs. Place them, cut side down, on an ungreased or lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned and edges are crispy. (They may still be a little soft in the middles. That’s ok.)

Carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely; they will harden and crispen fully as they cool.