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

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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.

Oven Roasted Tri-Tip Steak

Back when I was still in the Mitten, I didn’t eat too much red meat.

In that area, ground beef was pretty cheap before and when I first started cooking but almost directly after that, it suddenly became…not so cheap. And other cuts like chuck, eye of round, steak and whatnot were hardly ever within the price range of what was do-able for a girl who regularly peruses the sale ads and basically gets what most inexpensive. So, I didn’t eat it too much because I didn’t get to buy & cook it myself too much.

Figures.

It didn’t bother me ‘too’ much. If you guys have been following me for a while, you’ll know that my favorite protein, by far, is chicken. It’s not only delicious and better for you, it’s also usually more inexpensive than red meat. The last of which, really matters to yours truly.

However, I do like red meat. And in spite of not having quite as much of a chance to cook with it than with white meat, I do think I walk away with pretty tasty results. When I get the odd craving for it, I REALLY get a craving. It’s a stronger one than the one I get for chicken, to be honest. It can be satiated by one of three things:

An epic humongous, juicy burger, an epic humongous steak salad, or an epic humongous steak sandwich. Either will do: just so long as I get it.

While I was living in the Mitten, (since red meat wasn’t the most inexpensive choice in the grocery store when cooking for a family) I would usually just treat myself to one of the dishes at a take-out place or sit-down restaurant every once in a while and my craving would be satisfied and that was the end of it.

As it turns out, things are somewhat different on the west side. There are of course going to be certain things that are going to be pricey anywhere, at any time of year, guaranteed. However, since coming here I’ve discovered that for some reason, certain cuts of red meat are just cheaper than they are in the Midwest. I mean, REALLY good deals when and if you know how to find them. As a result, I’ve been able to flex my beef-recipe muscles out and giving them more experience than they’ve ever had before in the Mitten.

One of the meats that we’ve been able to get at a really good deal is Tri-Tip beef. The tri-tip is a cut of muscle; in diagram terms of the cow, it’s in front of the Round portion, beneath the tenderloin and above the flank. It’s kinda shaped like a boomerang, and is a really beautiful piece of meat. It’s got the lean cut of tenderloin, with just enough marbling of fat to give it the moisture and tenderness that’s on the fattier cuts, like round. I’d never heard of it at all since coming out here, but let me tell you: since we’ve been here I’ve prepared it three times.

Two out of three of those times was using this recipe.

Whenever I’m not largely familiar with a dish or an ingredient, I do prefer to keep things simple so as to not mess it up. That’s what I did here and even though it’s a simple enough recipe, the flavors more than make up for it. I looked up the standard way to cook a tri-tip in the oven (since me and the grill don’t get along), then I assembled together some of my favorite spices, blended the two together and came out on the other end with what you guys are seeing here.

There is one tool that I HIGHLY recommend you use when cooking this (and frankly, I think it’s something every home cook should have in their kitchen anyway): an instant read thermometer. Why?

Regardless of how you like your steak/burger cooked, the tri-tip is a cut that IS supposed to be cooked on the red/pinkish side. I don’t want to say it should still be bleeding by the time it’s done (after all I do take my steak/burgers  medium to medium well). But, this should still be somewhat…leaky. You cook it past medium and you’re in the danger zone of nuking it into leather. Now, if you’re a professional chef you MIGHT be able to guess-timate the exact moment when to take this out of the oven, let it rest (during which the temperature of the meat rises and continues to cook while the juices redistribute and settle), and slice it. But, most of us aren’t pros, and therefore, should rely on the trusty instant read thermometer that will tell us EXACTLY when the beef is at the right temp to take out of the oven. (Plus they’re very inexpensive and can be found at Target/Walmart/Marshall’s/Amazon so there’s really no excuse for you not to have one.)

I don’t know which I love more about this recipe: that it was an inexpensive way to hit the spot of my rare but strong craving for red meat, that it was so easy to put together with minimal ‘labor’ involved, or that it tasted so good. Why don’t we just call it all three?

Coffee and beef are a great combination and the coffee in this rub really does stand out nicely. The paprika and cumin give it an earthy, smoky flavor, while the other ingredients balance it out with sweetness and spice.  What this yields is a slab of meat that will more than deliver either an epic steak salad, steak sandwich or just a killer hunk of beef.

Believe me, I’ve had them all.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #168, co-hosted by Petra @ Food Eat Love and Lina @ Lin’s Recipes this week.

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Oven Roasted Tri-Tip Steak

Recipe Adapted from NYT Cooking

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole Tri-tip steak, about 2-3 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons ground coffee; a dark blend preferably (I used French roast)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 heaping teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • About 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • About 2 tablespoons beer (I used Guinness)
  • About 1 tablespoon Canola or vegetable oil

Directions

Combine all of the dry spices in a small bowl and set aside

Remove the silver skin and trim the excess fat from the steak; it’s fine if there is still some marbling on the surface.

 Rub the soy sauce and beer into the meat so that it seeps inside. Rub the spice mixture evenly into both sides of the meat. Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a heavy Dutch Oven or pot over high heat. Sear the Tri-Tip on both sides until a dark crust has formed, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Spray a  broiler rack or oven rack with cooking spray and place it over a sheet pan that you line with aluminum foil.

Place the meat on the rack and roast in the oven until the thickest, most center part reads about 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t allow it to cook for too long: this cut of meat is supposed to be reddish/pink.

Allow the meat to rest for about 10-20 minutes before slicing against the grain.

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Roast Pork Shoulder with Star Anise and Soy Sauce

I went to a huge, popular science museum recently where there was a planetarium theater. The show I saw there was about the relationship between different ecosystems and consumers in the environment. The screen of the theater was huge; it felt like you were actually apart of the movie itself, which was nice. It was the overall message of the movie itself that had me feeling kinda, well…meh.

In a nutshell, the whole thing was one giant guilt trip for the way that humans burn through resources on the planet. Food, just about any and every kind of food takes a lot of energy, work and effort to produce. Humans not only eat too much of it, we waste too much of it. It’s more than the planet’s got to offer and if we don’t cut our consumption, alter our methods of collection and chill out overall, it’s all going to run out and we’ll be royally screwed.

No joke, that was legit the underlying, not-so-subtle point.

The movie heavily emphasized that to alleviate this concern, one of the main things we can all do is severely cut our consumption of meat–especially beef, and up our consumption of plant-based foods. Essentially, we should all become vegetarians.

Sigh.

Alright, so…listen. It’s not that I don’t get it. I do. Humans suck. We consume too much and produce too little. Heck, the US has a president, a whole damn administration and quite a few supporters who want to pretend that climate change is one big hoax that we don’t actually have to worry about.  It’s awful. I won’t deny it.

But. You see. Here’s the thing. Keeping it one hundred…

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I’m not giving up meat, B. It’s not gonna happen. I will likely be eating meat until the day I die an old lady in my bed, (or the day the president of my country gets us all killed in a nuclear war with Russia or North Korea). I tried to go vegetarian once. It ended badly for me and turned me into an…unpleasant person to be around to say the least. For all the vegetarians who follow my blog, I wish you nothing but the best and even thank you for lessening your planet footprint/ resource consumption.

But personally? The vegetarian lifestyle ain’t my ministry. I’m a carnivore, damn it.

Today’s recipe is one of those things that when I eat, I’m immediately reminded of how much I love meat and how hard (close to impossible) it would be for me to go without it. Apart from being pork shoulder (my favorite cut of the pig in general), the flavor combinations here are really unique and complex. Star anise is a sweetly fragrant, almost floral spice. It’s hard to explain the flavor if you’ve never used it before, but it’s something that goes well with both sweet and savory applications provided you don’t go overboard with it. It provides a great compliment to the saltiness of the soy and fish sauce that gets rubbed into the meat then set overnight in the fridge. I added a few of my other favorite spices to the mix to liven up the flavors, then the next day roasted the shoulder in the oven until it was tender and the aromas filling the kitchen were making me slobber.

We ate this dish with my recipe for Baked Egg Rolls that’s already on the blog and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time. Do yourself a favor and try it out for yourself.

This week’s Fiesta Friday #165  is co-hosted by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes. I’ll be sharing this dish at the link up. Have a good weekend, all.

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Roast Pork Shoulder with Star Anise and Soy Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • 4 star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 7–8-pound skin-on, bone-in pork picnic shoulder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions 

Grind star anise and coriander seeds in either a coffee grinder or with mortar and pestle. Slice the  garlic, then mash to a paste using the side of a chef’s knife. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the dry spices, soy sauce, fish sauce, and paprika.

Lightly score pork skin crosswise in a tight pattern with a very sharp knife, cutting through the skin and some fat, but taking care not to slash the meat itself. Transfer pork to a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid or a roasting pan. Season liberally with salt and pepper and rub with marinade. Cover (use foil if using a roasting pan) and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Place pork, covered, in oven; reduce oven temp to 300°. Roast pork, basting with juices every hour, until meat is fork-tender and bones are very loose, 5–5½ hours.

Uncover pork and increase temperature to 450°. Roast, basting every 5 minutes and adding water by ¼-cupfuls if juices become syrupy, until pork is dark brown and skin is crisp, 15–20 minutes.

Carefully transfer pork to a platter. Skim fat from pan juices and pour remaining juices over.

Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

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Let me tell you guys something–something extremely important.

When it comes to food, there are very few things I love more than fried chicken and biscuits. I love the mashed potatoes and collard greens or green beans I’ll often eat alongside them. But honestly for me, the main stars of a meal even consisting of chicken and biscuits, are –without question–going to be the chicken and biscuits.

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The chicken biscuit is something that most people here in the States can get anywhere.

Chik-fil-A are famous for their chicken biscuits drizzled with the red sauce. I’ve been known to slice a Popeye’s biscuit and layer it with chicken I took off the bone of a spicy breast and drizzled with honey to make a sandwich. And KFC has…something. I think. I don’t know. Maybe. (Haven’t been there in *years*).

Maybe you’ve brought home a bucket of chicken from one of the above places, then served them with the refrigerated Grand’s biscuits. Maybe you made the chicken and used the refrigerated biscuits. Or, maybe you’ve done the reverse and made the biscuits, but bought the chicken.

No judgment here. All of the above are cool. I like Popeyes. I like the flaky-style Grand’s biscuits. And to be honest, frying chicken and making biscuits from scratch may be something that scares more than a few folks, and I’m sure there are others who just don’t think that making either from scratch is worth it.

While I don’t judge taking those shortcuts, you guys still know what I’m about to say, right? I mean, cooking IS my sport.

So, it stands to reason that I’m gonna say that making fried chicken from scratch at home, IS worth it. Making biscuits from scratch at home, IS worth it. Scared of making fried chicken from scratch? Even more scared of making biscuits from scratch?

Don’t be. I got you.

Here’s what I love about this recipe: it takes one of my favorite food combinations, and gives it a twist that is not only yummy, but pretty simple to pull off, especially where the biscuits are concerned. The chicken is set overnight in a buttermilk marinade that ensures it will be extra juicy and tender, then tossed in a flour breading that’s mixed in with Mexican seasonings (chili powder, cumin, oregano) and fried until golden brown and crisp.

Now I know in some of my past posts I’ve talked a bit about the technique of making scratch biscuits being key to ensuring that they turn out right. Typically, I will ALWAYS freeze my butter and use a box grater to cut it directly into the flour to ensure that the butter is evenly distributed. Then, I take care to knead the biscuits as little possible to make sure they don’t end up tough.

Maybe all of those above tips seem scary. Maybe you don’t have a box grater and don’t feel like getting one right this second. Maybe the idea of kneading dough AT ALL is a no-go.Guess what? You can STILL get great biscuits. With drop biscuits, there’s no freezing the butter, no grating it in, no kneading. It all comes together in one bowl and the dough is then scooped out with a 1/4 cup measure onto a baking sheet, and baked off just like that. They come out golden brown/craggy on the outside and soft/fluffy on the inside. They’re also near impossible to screw up.

As you guys can see, once I had this finished I took a big piece of the chicken, sliced a biscuit in half, plopped a few pickles on top, then shook some Frank’d Red Hot on, and had myself a pretty sensational chicken biscuit. Why not all of you do the same for yourselves?

(Linking up to Fiesta Friday #163)

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Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com and America’s Test Kitchen

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Ingredients

For the Fried Chicken

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast/wing pieces, 2 breast pieces)
  • Canola or peanut oil for deep-frying
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

For Biscuits

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted then slightly cooled, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing on top of biscuits
  • About 1 tablespoon of your choice of a combination of mixed dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage all work fine)

 

Directions

For the Fried Chicken:

Brine the Chicken: In a large gallon sized re-sealable plastic bag, combine the buttermilk, kosher salt, garlic and Mexican oregano. Add the chicken and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and up to overnight.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat at least 2-3 inches of the canola or peanut oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a large wire rack over a baking sheet next to the stove. Place another wire rack over a baking sheet and set it aside (this will be for the finished chicken)

Combine the flour, chili powder, cumin, baking powder, and corn starch together in a bowl with a fork. Remove the chicken from the brine, shake off the excess and place in the flour mixture, using the fork to help the dry ingredients adhere to the chicken. Place the chicken on the wire rack baking sheet. (I recommend chilling the chicken like this for about 35 minutes to an hour if you have the time and space in your fridge. But if not, that’s okay.)

When the oil is heated, take the chicken and just before you add each piece into the oil, re-dip each piece in the flour ingredients. Add to the oil, no more than three at a time. (Also bear in mind that you’re going to need to adjust the heat to maintain the temperature of 325 degrees) Using a pair of tongs, fry the chicken until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the chicken from the oil and place it on the second wire rack baking sheet. Keep it in an oven or a microwave to keep the chicken warm. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken until done.

For the Biscuits:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in an oven and preheat it to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, table salt, baking soda and herbs together in a large bowl. In a medium sized bowl combine the buttermilk and melted butter  together until small clumps form.

Use a rubber spatula to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones, stirring just until the mixture comes together. Place the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Spray a 1/4 cup measure with nonstick cooking spray, then scoop a level amount of batter out and onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve scooped out the rest of the batter, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Freeze the biscuits for about 30 minutes, then bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

 

Gumbo Ya-Ya

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I’ve never been to a Mardi Gras celebration before. I’ve never been to New Orleans before. I think I would like to go to both one day, despite my being an introvert. Mardi Gras just so I can say that I did it. New Orleans, mainly for the food (of course).

And speaking of food, another disclosure: until now, I’ve never even cooked or had real gumbo before. That one, I’ll concede is a bit more serious. I’ve made Jambalaya several times before, but gumbo was something I hadn’t tackled. I wouldn’t even order it in a restaurant if it was on the menu. Why?

Sigh. Well…the word ‘gumbo’ itself derives from the vegetable okra and….I don’t like okra.

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Actually, false. I don’t not like okra. I kinda hate it. A lot.

I know. But it’s true. I just can’t get with that gelatinous inner texture. Triggers my gag reflex. And since just about everyone cooks gumbo with okra, I just steered clear of it. Not because I didn’t think I wouldn’t like the rest of the stew that is the dish itself. I always knew that when made correctly, it was probably delicious. I just didn’t want it with that darn okra inside.

This year though, it finally hit me: if I was so curious about gumbo, why not just make it for myself WITHOUT the okra?

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*taps temple* See? Thinking.

Gumbo purists who believe gumbo isn’t gumbo without okra may want to just stop reading right here and move along. Personally I don’t recommend it, as this stuff I’m peddling today is damn tasty with or without your funky okra, but hey, it’s your world.

In my view, as long as your gumbo has a delicious base of well-seasoned broth and meat, then it’s still a gumbo worth trying. This one has both, mainly because it’s a genuine from scratch process from start to finish. That’s right, Buttercup: not only are we starting out with fresh meat, we’re making our own chicken broth.

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Don’t freak out. It’s not that serious, I swear it’s not. Making chicken broth is simple; you throw a whole bird in a stock pot with some water, herbs and veggies, and as the saying goes, set it and forget it for a while. It’s an extra step, but you’d be surprised the difference it makes, especially in a dish like gumbo where the broth is so essential to its success.

The only other laborious part of making gumbo is the roux: the flour-oil mixture you make that serves as both a slight thickener and a flavor booster. So long as you stay attentive to it, keeping a watchful eye AND a regularly stirring hand, it should turn out fine. After that, you’re pretty much done doing ‘work’. Just dump in your broth, spices and veggies and let that sucka go until the flavors have melded and it tastes like money.

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We’re huge meat lovers ’round here, so I not only had the chicken from the scratch-made broth, but smoked andouille and smoked turkey sausage in my gumbo as well. The flavor that the sausage adds is pretty much everything. Don’t leave at least one type out. As for the rest, I know that gumbo proteins can range from chicken, sausage, shrimp or even crawfish. All of these would be delicious in this; just add the meat towards the end so that it doesn’t overcook in the time it takes for the gumbo flavor to develop in the broth. As for veggies, well…I’m gonna just recommend that you do what works for you. That means if you like okra, throw it in. If you’re like me and you don’t, forget about it. If there’s another veggie that tickles your fancy, I’d say go ahead and throw it in there too. This is for Mardi Gras. Who cares about rules? Laissez les bon temps rouler, eh?

Oh! But please, PLEASE don’t leave out the scoop of rice on top. That part I must insist on.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #159, co-hosted this week by Zeba @ Food For The Soul and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative CookY’all be easy.

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Gumbo Ya-Ya

Recipe Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (about 6 pounds; you can use 2 3lb. Chickens if you like)
  • 16 cups water
  • 2 medium-size yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 ribs celery, each cut into 6 pieces
  • 4 bay leaves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 pound andouille or other smoked sausage, finely chopped, plus 1 pound smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions or scallions (green part only)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

 

Directions

In a large heavy stockpot, place the chicken, water, the quartered onions, celery ribs, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper together. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Partially cover and allow to cook for about 2 hours, until the chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken from the pot, place on a plate or in a bowl and cover with aluminum foil until cool enough to handle. Strain the broth and allow to cool.

In a large pot or a Dutch oven, pour about 2 tsp vegetable oil and add the onions and bell peppers, cooking until they are softened and slightly translucent. Remove the veggies to a small bowl, and saute the sausage until slightly browned on both sides. Remove the sausage to another small bowl and set aside. Do not drain off the grease from the pot.

In the same pot, combine the vegetable oil and all purpose flour over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon to make a roux until the mixture has thickened and is the color of milk chocolate, about 15-20 minutes. (Don’t walk away from it, roux can burn VERY easily.) Add the veggies, garlic, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, remaining 2 bay leaves, remaining salt and cayenne and the Worcestershire sauce. Pour in the strained broth, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow to cook for about 1 1/2 hours, tasting and adjusting for seasoning.

Remove the chicken meat from the bones and roughly chop, then set aside. Discard the carcass. Place the chicken and sausage into the gumbo broth and allow to cook for about 15-20 minutes. Take off the heat and use a wide spoon to skim the fat off the surface. Sprinkle with the green onions and parsley and eat with crusty bread, or over rice.

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