Faux Pok (Pok): Making yam khai dao at home

Yam Khai Dao/Fried Egg Salad/Pok Pok

Fried Egg Salad (yam khai dao) from the Pok Pok Cookbook

Last year was the year for Portland cookbooks. In fact it seemed like every time I went on Eater, another chef had landed a deal and was working on a book. In the final few months of 2013, several well-known local talents, like chefs Gabe Rucker and John Gorham, released books that were hot commodities all over the country.

Most of the books I was content to just flip through at Powells, but there was one that had to be mine — Andy Ricker’s cookbook for his nationally acclaimed restaurant Pok Pok. Pok Pok is a place dedicated to Thai street food, made famous by their incredible fish sauce chicken wings. After a few very successful years, Pok Pok became so popular that Ricker opened several new restaurants throughout town (all with a slightly different Thai spin) and even opened a spot in NYC.

And while I, like most people, love the Pok Pok wings, the one dish I always, always order is the yam khai dao or fried egg salad. It was hard to put my finger on why I love it so much but after reading Ricker’s description of the dish, I solved the mystery.

The vinaigrette that dresses the greens, herbs and crispy egg is perfectly balanced. There is heat fire from the Thai chiles, a bit of funk from the fish sauce, sweetness from the palm sugar simple syrup and zing from the lime juice. It’s one of those dishes that sucks you in from the first bite and you just can’t stop eating it. Or thinking about it. Or craving it.

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Sticking to a cleanse is easier when you’re eating steak!

Seared Striploin, Orange-Parsley Chimichurri with Roasted Beets and Carrots.

Seared Striploin, Orange-Parsley Chimichurri with Roasted Beets and Carrots.

As you all may know, I’ve been participating in the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse. The refined-sugar-and flour-free eating plan has resulted in several dreams involving fudge and bread but so far I’ve managed to make it through without a single cheat. Of course, it’s fairly easy to stick to a cleanse that involves (at least a little) red meat.

Yes, this beautiful steak dinner was still part of the 2014 FLC and it was so satisfying it nearly made me forget about wanting a beer. Nearly.

The recipe was Hanger steak with Orange Oregano Chimichurri but I made a few substitutions. The first issue was that I hadn’t bought hanger steaks from work and trying to find them at the nearest grocery store was totally unsuccessful. I turned instead to another steak known for its leanness, the striploin. In the chimichurri, I used some home-dried thyme instead of dried oregano because that’s what I had on hand. I also added a bit of mint because I live on the edge.

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A sauce so good I could live on it…

Roasted Pork w/ Spinach Yogurt Sauce

Roasted Pork w/ Spinach Yogurt Sauce

One of things I find funny about my life is that people assume I eat so well simply because my husband is a chef. I will admit that we both love food to a point of almost obsession, and that certainly affects my eating habits. After all, he is the one who has planned our dinners to the Herb Farm, the French Laundry, Au Pied de Cochon and (coming soon) Willows Inn. But unless I visit him in at his restaurant or guilt him about buying a new cookbook, he rarely cooks more than ramen at home.

And, since I spent many years cooking professionally, I totally understand why. Even on your days off you’re exhausted and, quite frankly, sick of looking at food unless it’s something someone else has made.

For us, this seems to work out perfectly though — I love being the one to cook. I get to play around with new recipes and slip in more fiber (and less butter!) without him there to interfere.

But every once in a while, he surprises me by cooking something epically delicious on a day off. I will come home to the the thermal circulator chugging away, the pressure cooker giving a quiet whistle or homemade raviolis being pressed together with a fresh egg yolk in the center. And it’s always so good, I get a wave of, “I can’t believe I get to eat this at home!”

For example:

Iberico solomillo (tenderloin), with sous vide egg, scallions and nasturtiums

Iberico solomillo (the tenderloin from Spanish acorn-fed hogs ), with sous vide egg, scallions and nasturtiums

The dinner he made for me a few weeks ago was one of those meals — though it was incredibly tame by his standards. Nothing was dehydrated or fried in duck fat, and yet it made a serious impression on me, mainly because of the sauce. I guess you could call it a spinach-yogurt sauce, which is totally boring, but perfectly accurate. I don’t know of what else I could name it, but I do know this stuff rocked.

The raw garlic gave it just a little kick, which was tempered by the creamy tangy coolness of the yogurt. The spinach and parsley added a grassy herbaceous quality but gave a lovely vibrancy to the finished product.

This was a sauce that could be almost anything you wanted it to be — make it a little thicker and spread it on a sandwich. Thin it out with more lemon juice and use it as a salad dressing. Drizzle it in a soup or on a plate of grilled vegetables. It was one of those creations that just seemed to taste good with anything — well anything that would taste good with garlic.

Spinach Yogurt Sauce

Spinach Yogurt Sauce

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Parsley Pesto Perfection

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Growing up on an island in Alaska before the popularity of the Food Network meant my window in the culinary world was very limited. The most exotic foods that I remember eating as a kid were lumpia and “meat-on-a-stick” (likely a version on bulgogi) that some of the Filipino families would sell each summer at the annual Crab Festival.

I had certainly never heard of pesto and the first time I was confronted with it while visiting Italian relatives in Vancouver, BC, I was very suspicious. It didn’t seem right to coat pasta in anything besides the familiar red of marinara.

But once I tasted the garlicky herbaceous green sauce, I was sold. After that moment, one of my all-time favorite dinners as a teenager became linguine tossed with broccoli and pesto. I would get so excited when my mom would make it that I would hoard the leftovers to eat for lunch the next day. I still do this actually, old habits die hard.

As an adult, I’ve learned all the different variations one can do with pesto. I’ve made it with broccoli, watercress and arugula, and garlic scapes — all with equally delicious success. Besides the traditional pine nut, I’ve used everything from walnuts to sunflower seeds. So when I saw the June cover of Bon Appetit, featuring a gorgeous plate of pasta in pesto sauce, that was the first recipe I turned to. And there I found a twist I hadn’t yet made: parsley pesto with roasted almonds.

Ok, Bon Appetit, challenge accepted.

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A Story of Redemption: Magazine Chicken Done Right

Roasted Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon and Oregano

Roasted Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon and Oregano

Last week I wrote a post about my frustration at having a recipe from Food & Wine look nothing like the picture in the magazine. While I am well-aware of food styling and Photoshop skills, that experience still got under my skin. And here’s why — usually when I cook from a recipe, I am successful! See above: a beautiful chicken dinner crafted last weekend from this recipe in Bon Appetite.

This dish turned out exactly like I expected it to — crispy chicken skin, golden lemons and succulent sauce. It also made me a believer in a new cooking technique that I had been hesitant about trying. Bon Appetite recommends starting the chicken skin down in a room temperature pan which, as a former line cook, goes against everything I’ve ever learned. On the line, the mantra is always “hot pan, hot pan, hot pan.” It gets drilled into you. But this worked like a dream — the skin renders so perfectly that it’s practically paper thin by the time the meat is cooked.

Here’s how things went down.

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Seeing Green: Salsa Verde

We had some friends over last weekend for a BBQ/wine drinking extravaganza. My husband and I had just reached our 5-year anniversary and thought there was no better way to celebrate than with some good wine, great food and even better company. So surrounded by some of our closest friends, we dined on a simple, but elegant dinner fueled by the power of vino.

A Ponzi pinot party!

The star of the show (well besides the magnum of 1996 Pinot Noir Reserve from Ponzi — given to us at our wedding, which was held at Ponzi Vineyards) was undoubtedly the steak. I bought it from work — a lovely grass-fed Uruguayan beef flap that only needed salt, pepper and a nice hot grill.

But no matter how delicious the meat is, I always feel like it needs some sort of sauce. Keeping with the idea of fresh and easy, I talked my husband into making salsa verde — one of my summer-time favorites. Salsa verde is a blend of finely chopped herbs, with capers, lemon and anchovies added help bring it all together.

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