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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Baked Taquitos and Misadventures with DayQuil

Baked Carnitas Taquitos

Corn tortillas stuffed with beer-braised pork, 3 cheeses and green onions. Served with sour cream and a Brussels sprout, radish and sprouted mung bean slaw

I have no problem admitting that I only watch the Superbowl for the commercials and the food. This year the hitch in that giddy up was that I’ve been sick for more than a week and didn’t feel like going anywhere. I also didn’t feel like inviting anyone over — that would prevent my husband and I from spending all day on the couch in pajamas under a pile of blankets and kitties (which basically describes all of my favorite Sundays, sick or not).

So I took the anti-social and lazy way out. I planned an easy all-day menu for two based around a Mexican theme and starring one main protein — beer-braised carnitas.

A petite pork butt (around 1.5 pounds) came into play and using this super simple recipe from Bon Appetite, I braised it with dried chiles, beer and garlic. It was pretty much all I could handle in my cold medicine haze.

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Winter Slaw — helping me stay sane, sated and satisfied

Brussels sprouts, hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds and Parmesan

“Get ready for the holidays” salad: Brussels sprouts, hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds and Parmesan

While I like to think it’s still technically fall (it is, right?), this salad has “winter holidays” written all over it. I’m already envisioning it as a staple for my December menu planning. It’s both red and green, the unofficial colors of December, and it uses pomegranate which is a fruit I always forget about until this time of year.

Sorry pomegranate -- it's not you, it's me!

Sorry pomegranate — it’s not you, it’s me!

Anyways I came across this salad while digging through my giant stack of “things to make someday” — pages and pages of recipes liberated from various culinary magazines. I was a bit stressed out because the past few weeks have been so busy I haven’t had time to make real meals. While I’ve managed to whip up several different desserts (just wait for the apple cider caramel post!), my savory cooking has suffered. I’ve been surviving on my favorite ramen and Amy’s frozen “light and healthy” entrees. *sigh

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Dense, Delicious Melons (or utilizing culinary compression)

Compressed watermelon salad w. olives, feta, micro greens and olive oil

Compressed watermelon salad w. olives, feta, micro greens and olive oil

Nothing really says summer like watermelon. Even though I think it’s best au naturel — ice cold with a hint of salt — I also really love mixing it into a (mostly) savory salad. I was introduced to the idea while working the pantry station as a line cook years ago. On the menu was a salad of perfectly cubed watermelon garnished with crumbled feta, pitted kalamata olives, mint leaves and mint oil. Somehow, even though I was familiar with the classic melon and prosciutto pairing, this combination pretty much blew my mind.

I’ve since added that watermelon salad to my revolving summer repertoire where it has, for the most part, stayed the same. The salt from the feta and olives is outstanding with the sweet melon. For greens, I still use mint when I have it around, but have found spicy greens like arugula, baby mustard greens or nasturtiums also work fabulously. And a little red onion is just a good thing overall. In lieu of mint oil, I’ve found a drizzle of lemon juice or good extra virgin olive oil is all that’s really needed to “dress” this salad.

However, after this year, I’m adding a new modernist element to my old favorite — compression.

The first time I had compressed watermelon was Friday night when my parents were in town visiting. My husband made us an appetizer that was as gorgeous as it was delicious — sliced raw scallops marinated in olive oil, togarashi and lemon served with cubes of watermelon and heirloom tomatoes. While the whole thing was fabulous, it was the melon that made the dish so interesting. Compressed it mimicked the look of tuna, glistening and meaty. It was no longer light and airy chunks, but instead dense and toothsome jewels.

Again, I was blown away.

Compressed watermelon

Compressed watermelon

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Why I love being married to a chef, Part II

This was my dinner a few nights ago, served al fresco on our new patio!

Little gem salad w/ feta dressing, grilled corn and Calabrian chiles

Little gem salad w/ feta dressing, grilled corn and Calabrian chiles

Grilled & Smoked Poussin with "crazy water" and purslane

Grilled & smoked poussin with “crazy water” and purslane

Backyard Sunset

Backyard Sunset

Vacation Cooking: Why I Married a Chef

The main reason we rented the place we did in St. Martin is because it has a fully equipped kitchen. One trip to the Grand Marche and we were all set to make a few meals “at home” instead of eating out. Luckily I got to sit out on the balcony while my husband did the cooking!

Soft Boiled Egg, Mache, Lemon Zest Salad...with some Foie Gras and Proscuitto thrown in for fun...

Soft Boiled Egg, Mache, Lemon Zest Salad…with some Foie Gras and Proscuitto thrown in for fun…

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