While I have slacked on blogging these past few months, I can say — at the very least — I have been successful at some of my food goals for 2015.
Back in February, I made homemade Fritos (Faux-itos?), using a recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen DIY cookbook. My corn chips weren’t an immediate win, but the more I ate, the more I craved “just one more.” They were very crunchy and full of corn flavor. The downside was that the texture was a little too gritty from the cornmeal rendering them a bit tough on the teeth. Some day I’ll have to give them another go — though I have doubts they will ever reach the greatness of the packaged kind.
From the same DIY cookbook, I also made candied ginger, something I’ve been meaning to do for years.
Much less labor-intensive than candied citrus peels, these are going to be a repeat project in my kitchen. I ate the spicy yet sweet sugar-dusted pieces so fast I didn’t have time to use them in cookies (my original goal). In fact they disappeared so quickly, I didn’t even get a picture of the final result. Next time!
A bonus of this project is that I ended up with lots of ginger-infused simple syrup. It proved to be absolutely delicious in cocktails and Moscow Mule Jello shots — which are awaiting a post of their very own!
But I think the biggest accomplish I have under my belt is completing three new recipes from the Pok Pok cookbook!
Chef Andy Ricker’s cookbook is intense in its devotion to Thai cuisine and each time I attempt one of his recipes I get hit by a wave of anxiety. This is probably because each recipe often has two “side recipes” all of which are then followed by pages of instruction. Even the simplest of projects can turn into an all-day affair, starting with a trip to the Asian market to be followed by prepping, cooking and finally (gleefully) sitting down to eat. Thankfully the results are almost always worth the effort.
One of the easiest of my latest three projects was a sweet braised pork (muu waan) that I made at my friend DB’s house. In terms of ingredients, the list was blessedly short, calling for only a boneless pork butt, Thai sweet soy sauce, Thai thin soy sauce, palm sugar and white pepper.
I already had the sweet and thin soy sauces, so we were able to skip going to the market altogether. (Since I started working my way through Ricker’s cookbook, my bounty of Asian condiments have literally caused one of my refrigerator’s shelves to sag. It might be time for an intervention!)
The best part of this dish is that it braises away to deliciousness without much effort. The only job for the cook is to make sure it doesn’t burn. We even had enough time to whip up a batch of the famous Pok Pok chicken wings while it cooked, which is saying something. Those suckers are time consuming!
After the pork was tender (about 2 hours), we used a whisk to break up the meat and then let it simmer uncovered until the sauce reduced to a sticky glaze.
Ricker suggests serving the muu waan over coconut rice and topping it with homemade fried shallots.
Our only failure of the evening was the fried shallots. We followed the recipe precisely but somehow ours ended up oil laden and frankly, rather sad. We ate them anyways. Or at least I did.
I blame the beer.
Anyways, this dish got its nickname “pork candy” for a very good reason. The palm sugar mixed with the sweet soy does not go unnoticed — it is an unapologetically sweet dish. It’s also one of the few from the book that doesn’t balance out the sweetness with some funk from fish sauce, spice from chilies or sourness from limes. And yet, it’s unbearably delicious.
But you know me, always looking for something to play around with.
So while nibbling on the (sparse) leftovers the next day, I got an idea…I thought about the steamed buns I had done with some Chinese-style BBQ pork loin and I imagined those same steamed buns made with this sweet, sticky pork candy.
This weekend I decided it was time for both another batch of muu waan and a good cooking project…
Check back later this week to see the tasty results!