Spiced Meatballs with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

I know I can’t be the only person out there with an ingredient or condiment that they put on everything, right? You guys know what I’m talking about. You love it SO much, its flavors are SO awesome that you just always have to have it (sometimes huge quantities of it) in the house. You search for excuses to somehow incorporate it into every meal. The love you have for it is just that strong.

I mean, I’m a foodie so it should probably go without saying that I’ve got more than one contender.

There must, at all times, be a bottle of Frank’s Original Red Hot Sauce in my house. Preferably, the big one. You know why? Cause I really do put that stuff on everything:

Pizza, eggs, chips, salsa, salad, vegetables, french fries, chicken wings. I’ll shake some of it into stews or braises to give it an extra ‘zip’. Heck, I even mix it in with strawberry jelly to smear on my biscuits or toast because I love the contrast of the sweet with the spicy (Look, don’t knock it til you try it!).

Caramelized onions are another one for me. I could eat them completely on their own as a side dish to be honest, but I can put them in just about anything. For that reason, I’ll usually always pick up at least one or two yellow or red onions from the grocery every week so I can always have some in the kitchen to caramelize for anything I might be in the mood for. If you guys haven’t hopped on the caramelized onions bandwagon, please do. Like Frank’s Red Hot, they can and will elevate just about any dish. This is also where having a recipe that is impossible to screw up, like these Foolproof  Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions, will really come in handy.  Just saying.

Right up there with caramelized onions for me are roasted red peppers. God, I love roasted red peppers so much. Any slow roasted pepper is delicious, but there’s just always been something about the red ones that had me hooked from that very first taste. Like Frank’s Red Hot and caramelized onions, I will look for excuses to put roasted red peppers in anything. I am convinced there is no savory dish that they would not taste good in and enhance. None.

I really don’t care how good your favorite pizza is. That pizza game is weak until you start eating pizza with roasted red peppers on top.

You’re really outchea trying to eat tacos with no roasted red peppers? Fix your life.

Trying to eat healthy by eating a salad? Fantastic. Slice a roasted red pepper in there and give it a pop of color and a pop of deliciousness.

Psst. Come here. Closer. Closer.  *whisper voice* Hummus tastes 1000x better with roasted red peppers blended in it. Believe me. Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. Try it sometime.

This dish ended up happening for two reasons: first, I wanted to try to make a roasted red pepper romesco sauce to go with some meatballs. Second, I didn’t have an almonds. Romesco sauce is one that is primarily made of red peppers and almonds, so not having almonds on hand was…kinda putting a damper on my plans. But I improvised and came up with something else that I’m actually very pleased with.

So check this sauce y’all. It’s not a tomato sauce. It not only has quite a few roasted red peppers in it, it also has roasted sweet onions AND a whole head of roasted garlic. I know. That seems like a lot, but trust me. It all works. Roasting the veggies gives them a richer, sweeter flavor that melds well with the spices that pack a punch of their own.

I decided to try and up the ante of the roasted flavor in the veggies by pairing them with smoked paprika and ras el hanout. Both are intensely smoky and slightly spicy with woodsy undertones that leave a sweet aftertaste on the tongue. Combining them together with all those veggies and garlic that were roasted is going to result in a sauce that you’re probably going to be tempted to slurp up on a spoon all on its own. But don’t do it! Cause, meatballs.

I used a lot of the same spices in the ground meat that I did the sauce. I prefer to bake mine rather than saute them in a skillet as I’ve found that they hold together better that way. Another suggestion-kinda-not-suggestion I have is to finish cooking your meatballs IN the sauce itself, as that meaty flavor can literally cook inside the sauce and give it even more flavor.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering: yes. I DID sprinkle some Frank’s Red Hot on top of these when I sat down to eat. Not because they ‘needed it; I just really do put that stuff one everything. Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #185, co-hosted by Suzanne @ apuginthekitchen and Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes.

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Spiced Meatballs with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

For Meatballs

  • 4 lbs ground beef (or turkey, if you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2- dashes Soy Sauce
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (up to 1 cup more, if needed)

For Sauce

  • 6-7 red bell peppers, de-stemmed, seeded and cut into halves or quarters
  • 3 sweet yellow onions, cut in halves
  • 1 whole head of garlic, outer loose skin removed, but still whole
  • 4 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons ras el hanout spice mix (optional, if you can’t find it you can always use cumin)
  • 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2- dashes Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

 

Directions

For Meatballs: combine the ground beef in a large bowl with all of the dry spices. Add the soy and Worcestershire sauce, then the eggs. Pour in the breadcrumbs and mix together with your hand; don’t knead it too much though, or the meatballs may be tough. If the mixture seems too wet, you can always add more breadcrumbs to tighten it up.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shape into meatballs (about 2 tablespoonfuls each). Place 1 1/2 inches apart on a lightly greased (with cooking spray) rack in an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until browned.

For Sauce: Lower heat down to 350°. Rub about 1 teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil on top of garlic head. Sprinkle the top with salt & pepper and place in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the garlic, like a package. Place on a half sheet pan and bake in the oven for about 50-55 minutes. Remove and allow to cool until warm enough to handle.

Meanwhile, crank oven up to 450°. Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.  Drizzle the peppers with oil, salt & pepper, then arrange with the cut sides down on the pans. Roast in the oven until the skins have started to char & separate from the inner flesh and the peppers have started to collapse, about 25-30 minutes (you may need to rotate pans halfway to ensure even roasting).

Remove the peppers and onions to a bowl and cover with foil to allow to cool down, about 30 minutes. Once cool, use your fingers to rub away the outer skins of the red peppers (they should come away easily).

Discard skins and place roasted veggies into a blender or food processor. Take the roasted garlic head and break off individual cloves. Use your fingers to press/squeeze out the pulp into the container of the blender/processor with the veggies. (It should come out very easily). Place the lid on, and puree the mixture together on high speed until very smooth.

Pour the mixture into a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Pour in the beef broth and add the spices, Soy and Worcestershire sauces, sugar and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and allow sauce to cook for about 20 minutes. You may add a few of the meatballs inside to give additional beefy flavor.

Spoon sauce on top of the meatballs or dip meatballs in sauce, eating with rice, quinoa or couscous. 

Jamaican Beef Patty

One of the very earliest recipes I did on the blog was one for meat pies that I make for my sister. (Don’t go back in the archives to look for it, I beg of you. My photography was abysmal in those days.) I started out with meat pies because for quite some time, I’ve had somewhat of a minor obsession with them, in just about any form. I don’t know why. Carbs and meat are perfectly fine all on their own. But for me, when you out them together they can get elevated to something even better.

The pretty cool thing about the meat pie is that practically EVERY cuisine, culture & region has their own rendition of it. In Latin American cuisine, they have empanadas. In Canada they have Tourtiere. In Lebanese cooking they’re called sfeeha. Back where I come from in Michigan they’re called pasties. In Louisiana they’re Natchitoches.

For so many different people in so many different places to all find a way to work the meat pie in their cuisines means that there’s really gotta be ‘something’ to it worth trying out at least once. And frankly, once you’ve had a delicious meat pie, you’re not just going to want to make it a one time deal. You’ll keep coming back for more whether you’re buying or making them–that’s my experience anyway.

I left one very important type of meat pie off the list above on purpose. Jamaican Beef Patty are the subject of today’s post and (if you can believe it) making these was the first time I’d ever even tasted them before. I know, right? And I call myself a foodie. But better late than ever. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit more pleased with my results than those I’ve seen in take out joints. I’ve had Caribbean food before, though not as often as now when we’re in the Bay area. But even at the occasions when I had it, beef patty was something that somehow always ended up getting left off the order. I’ll admit that may have been because when it comes to how I like MY meat pies, I can be tough to please.

For me, there are three components that you have to nail in order to make a good meat pie: first, the pie crust has to be buttery and flaky. No one wants to be chewing something that tastes like bland, dried up cardboard. Also, don’t be afraid to season the crust itself. Second, make sure there is enough moisture in the filling. I understand that we’re not making pot pie here, but it shouldn’t be dry as a bone on the inside either. Third, SEASONSEASONSEASOOOOOON that filling. I can’t tell you how disappointed I’ve been to try someone else’s meat pie (of several different kinds of cuisines) only to be disappointed because literally the only thing I can taste is browned, bland ground beef. Do better. Season with authority and make that filling pack an Ali-worthy punch.

Having said all of that, I can safely say that this recipe checks off all those boxes. The pie crust is not only flaky and buttery by using a combination of butter and shortening, there’s curry powder in the dough that not only gives it wonderful flavor, but a pleasant golden brown color when it’s finished baking. The filling is cooked with more than enough spices to be anything but bland. It’s obviously got a kick from the Scotch bonnet pepper, but it’s also got an aromatic, earthy beef flavor that only gets better the longer it sits–so, I do recommend you follow the instructions to refrigerate it overnight to allow the flavors in the filling to develop. You won’t regret it. Andand! The addition of Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce and beef broth also ensures that it won’t be too dry.

Try these guys. It’s a nice little project to do that will get you a lot of rave reviews. Linking it up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #183, co-hosted this week by Sarah @ Sarah’s Little Kitchen and Shinta @ Caramel Tinted Life.

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Jamaican Beef Patty

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 3 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored vegetable shortening, frozen
  • 3/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon cold water, plus more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

For Filling

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and finely minced
  • 1 1/4 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons steak sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout spice mix (or cumin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 egg, beaten

 

Directions

For Dough: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and curry powder with a fork. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate butter directly into dry ingredients. Slice the shortening into small chunks and sprinkle into the flour. Mix together with a fork or a rubber spatula. (Mixture should resemble coarse bread crumbs, with chunks of butter/shortening throughout) Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the water, beaten egg and vinegar. Mix together until just combined, then turn out onto a cutting board or pastry mat dusted with flour. Working quickly, pat and press with your hands until you have a mass of dough that holds together. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at LEAST one hour, but preferably overnight.

For Filling: In a large skillet or Dutch oven, pour and heat the oil over medium heat. Brown the beef until no longer pink. Remove and drain the fat.  Don’t wipe out the skillet. Saute the onions until translucent, about 7 minutes, then add the pepper and garlic and cook until just fragrant, 1-2 minutes more. Add the beef back into the skillet, then Pour in the beef broth , sauces, spices, bay leaves and thyme leaves. Stir to combine, then allow to cook until most of the liquid has cooked off and evaporated, about 20 minutes. Taste & adjust for seasoning. Remove from heat and stir in the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate filling overnight to allow flavor to improve.

Preheat oven to 375°. Remove the  dough from the fridge and sprinkle a clean surface with flour. Roll dough out with  floured rolling pin to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 4-5 inch circles and place two heaping tablespoons of filling on each. Brush the bottom edge with water or egg wash, then pull the top edge over the filling and press down to fuse the two edges together. You may crimp the outer edges afterwards with a fork if you like. Repeat until you’ve used all of the dough, keeping unused rounds AND filled patties in the fridge as you work to keep the dough cold as possible.

Once finished, line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil, and lightly spray with cooking spray. Place pies on pan. Brush the tops with the beaten egg, then bake on the middle rack until dough is cooked through & golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

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.

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.

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.

Chinese Braised Beef

chinese-braised-beef5

Hi. How are all of you doing?

So….climate change is not a hoax. It is not something you can ignore or put away to the back burner and pretend as though it’s inconsequential. It is real.

The man who lives in the White House (at least PART of the time, when he’s not golfing at one of his tacky resorts) is a corrupt, shameless, puny buffoon. A disgrace. He’s unfit for office and a menace to this country.

I didn’t vote for him. I despise him, completely.

There. Just wanted to make it clear to all of you where I stand on that. We can get back to the food now.

I like Chinese takeout. There’s just something about the food that, in spite of the msg-laden/syrupy sauces/mystery ‘meat’, I just can’t quit. It’s not fancy, God knows it’s not healthy and sometimes it’s not even that cheap, but if the president of your country is determined to give the middle finger to valid, proven scientific research that could be the difference in preserving this planet for future generations, what’s the point in turning your nose up at a little msg, eh?

However, there are times when I’m a ‘good girl’ and instead of picking up the phone to order takeout, I go into the kitchen instead to cook what I want instead.

My number one entree go-to at a Chinese takeout joint is Sesame Chicken. I haven’t gotten around to trying to make that on my own yet, but it’s definitely still on the radar. A meal of Sesame Chicken, Lo mein and egg rolls for me is pure comfort food. I’m pleased to say that this recipe is getting added to that list.

But here’s the thing: it isn’t quiiiiiite what I would classify as a ‘takeout style’ dish. Most wok-style takeout dishes use lean beef like flank or hangar steak that cook quickly at a very high heat. This recipe doesn’t come together quickly, because it’s a braise of a fattier cut of meat like bottom round, chuck or short ribs that require a low-and-slow cooking to make them fall-apart, fork tender.

There’s still lots of good news to go round: first, once you get the meat seared off and the sauce blended together, the oven does most of the rest of the work. Second, all of the ingredients you use for this dish are popular staples that should be easily found in most grocery stores (which isn’t always the case).

The only ‘downside’ is that you have to wait for the beef to braise for a couple of hours and once the smells start to waft up from your oven, into the kitchen and the rest of the house, waiting to dig in may get increasingly difficult as the hunger pangs start to settle in.

This dish is alternatively known as Chinese Red-Beef, and if I had to compare it to another cuisine I would say it’s in the same vein as Hungarian Red Goulash,  American Beef Stew, or a French Carbonnade. All are essentially braised hearty beef stews with incredible sauces with flavors that develop over the long cook-time in the oven.  The sauce in this dish is very reminiscent of Chinese takeout flavors to me; it’s sweet, acidic, salty and slightly spicy.   The fresh ginger really comes through and that bit of gelatin and cornstarch also helps to give it that sticky ‘takeout’ consistency. Like all beef stews/braises, this would also go wonderful with a starch on the side. My personal preference for a side dish to Asian food is brown rice and steamed brocoli, but I think white rice, or even noodles would be great mixed in with this sauce.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #174 this week.

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Chinese Braised Beef

Recipe Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

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Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of chuck roast, bottom round, or boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 4-inch lengths
  • Salt, pepper and onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin on bias
  • About 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 dashes of fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Sesame seeds, optional for garnish

 

Directions

In a  large pot or Dutch oven, pour about 1 tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil and bring to high heat.

Season the beef with the salt, pepper and onion powder evenly. Sear in the Dutch oven over high heat until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate or bowl and cover with aluminum foil. Leave the drippings in the pan.

Add the onion to the pot and saute until softened and limp. Add the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 300°.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in the Dutch oven and allow to sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.  Allow for gelatin to melt, then stir in the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, molasses, ginger, onion and garlic mixture, red pepper flakes and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer and stir together with a wooden spoon. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Stir in the beef chunks.

Remove pot from the heat, then cover tightly with aluminum foil, then Dutch oven lid. Transfer to oven and cook until the beef is tender when pierced with a fork, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring halfway.

When finished remove the beef to a bowl. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and discard the bits. Separate/skim off as much fat as you can from the top, then place back into pot. Cook over medium high heat, until reduced to about 1 cup, about 20-25 minutes.

In a separate bowl combine the cornstarch with about 2 tablespoons of water, mixing together with a fork. Add this to the reduced sauce and allow to cook for about 5 more minutes, until thickened and syrupy. Return the beef to the pot and stir to combine with the sauce. Sprinkle with the scallions and sesame seeds and serve with rice and/or broccoli.

Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

I think that this may be the first time ever that I’ve been away from my mom on Mother’s Day. It’s certainly the first time I’ve been over two thousand miles away. Feels weird. I miss her. I wish I was back in the Mitten sometimes, but especially times like now so that I could cook my mom a good meal as a way of showing her that I do love and appreciate her.

For any of my followers that are also far away from their moms on Sunday,  if your mother has passed away, or if you just don’t have the kind of relationship with your mom that you’d like to and the holiday is difficult for you–I’m sorry for that. I hope you can find a silver lining to the day.

Food has never failed to be one for me, so let’s focus on that for the moment.

Today’s recipe was actually the meal that I made for us on Easter. However, I thought it would work this week just as well. It also piggy-backs on last week’s where I shared the second best biscuit recipe I’ve ever had or made. I do hope some of you were able to give it a try like we both know you wanted to. But if you’re STILL dragging your feet and putting it off, maybe this week’s recipe & pictures will finally put the boot in your rear and make you just do it already.

Bargain shoppers know that the closer you get to major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, the better price you can get for the huge ‘roast’ style cuts of meat like whole turkeys and hams in grocery stores. We haven’t had ham since Christmas and since we do enjoy it,  I knew for sure that I was going to wait until the last minute to buy an inexpensive one to make for Easter dinner. I just wasn’t sure of how and with what else to serve it with.

It didn’t take very long before I made up my mind. I’d been craving breakfast for dinner for a while. Since it’s just the three of us all the way out here I thought that that would be a simple, yet delicious celebratory meal: Easter Brinner.

I for one, just couldn’t imagine having a real ham brinner without the biscuits. So, I didn’t try. I cooked a ham and a batch of the newfound biscuit recipe that I was still swooning over and still wanting more of after they were gone–with some modifications that in my opinion, made it even better.

First off, I loveloveLOVE this ham. The rub I put together is sweet, zesty and with just the right amount of aromatic ‘kick’ from the cloves and nutmeg. It pairs just right with the berry glaze that gets brushed over the ham while it warms up and causes it to form that dark, bark-like, sugary crust on the outside. Using a standard/spiral ham is also pretty impossible to mess up as the thing is already cooked in the first place. So long as you don’t dry it out, which if you follow the baking time, is extremely difficult to do, it should turn out great.

The first time I made these biscuits, I left them plain, without any major seasonings added to the dough outside of some sugar and a tiny bit of salt. They were definitely delicious enough on their own. However, for Easter I did want to try and mix things up and see if they could be improved upon. I was right. They could. Best part was, the only changes I made from the original was the addition of 2 ingredients: black pepper and bacon drippings.

Just two simple ingredients and WHOA. They really did elevate the biscuits in not only flavor but the appearance. Although it’s definitely visibly flecked throughout the dough, the pepper isn’t overwhelming. Promise, it really isn’t: so do use the whole tablespoon. The biscuits also browned more evenly across the top and bottom and the layers were more pronounced than they were the first time I made them. The edges became perfectly crisp while the inside stayed light and fluffy. This  is just how biscuits ought to be.

See this?

Black pepper biscuit, sliced in half. Ham. A fried egg cooked just to where the egg white has set and the yolk is still runny. Smear both sides with the ham glaze. Smash it all together into one. This kids, is the best breakfast sandwich that I’ve ever had, bar none. And it was my Easter Brinner. (Actually, I loved it so much that I ended up having two, but mind your business).

I only wish I was back home so I could make this meal for my mom. I kinda think she’d be pleased with it.

Happy Mother’s Day and Fiesta Friday #171, where I’ll be linking this post up to.

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Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens & King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Ham

  • 8 lb. cooked ham, liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • About 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup honey

For Biscuits

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat/drippings (solid or liquid, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine the light brown sugar, cinnamon, coriander, ground cloves, and nutmeg.

Place the ham in a large roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, score the outer skin in crisscross pattern, being careful not to pierce the actual meat. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the skin with your hands. (It may get messy, and it may not all stick to the ham. That’s fine. The excess will form a syrupy sauce in the bottom of the pan as it cooks;  yum.) Pour the chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake on the bottom rack for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until heated through (inner temp should be near 140 degrees F.)

Meanwhile, pour reserved ham liquid, OJ, jam, berries and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 15-20 more minutes until syrupy, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat, and brush some of the glaze over the ham as it cooks.

Remove the cover from the roasting pan and crank oven up to 425 F. Allow ham to cook for about 20-35 more minutes until the skin gets crispy, brushing/basting with a bit more of the glaze. Remove from the oven, cover with foil again and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the extra glaze.

For Biscuits: Keep oven at 425 Degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, pepper and sugar with a fork.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Add the bacon fat and 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 30 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.