Archive for the ‘pork’ Category

guinness pie

One of the pages I always look forward to reading in the New York Times magazine regales on the subject of food. Surprise, surprise. The two-page articles sometimes involve the origins and evolution of certain dishes, recollections on memories of food, storytelling using food as a backdrop, or in the article that I refer to in this post — a way to cheat on a recipe.

Although I have been, on a countless number of occasions, fascinated by the recipes accompanying the articles, I had never felt the impetus to recreate one of them until I came across last week’s article on beef and stout pie. It may have been the rain inspiring a need for comfort food, or because it made me think of our friends in London, who I think by now know a thing or two about savory pies.

The story starts with Fergus Henderson, chef of renowned London restaurant St. John, giving the writer his take on what makes a good meat pie: it must be large, it must be made using a jellied pig’s feet stock (trotter gear), and it must have a great crust. The writer then suggests that, “if trotters are hard to find,” (or in my interpretation, if you would like to save yourself more than three hours of stove duty) one could use cheddar cheese in place of the trotter gear. As he points out, one of chef Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks has a recipe for meat and cheese pie, minus the trotters. So why not cheat a little? Normally, I would jump at the opportunity to cheat on labor-intensive recipes such as this one. But given the description of what the trotter gear lends to the meat pie — intensity in flavor and “lip-sticking” effects due to the collagen — I couldn’t cheat this time. I wanted the most out of my pie.

I found that Central Market sells frozen trotters in packs of three, cleaned and split into halves. I have to admit, they’re not very pretty to look at, but they are what they are. Pigs do have feet, after all. I took the time to make the trotter gear a couple of days before I made the Guinness pie, setting aside one cup of it for the recipe and freezing the rest to use in other soups or stews in the future.

In the end, I was so glad that I chose to invest three hours of my day making the trotter gear. Mixed in with the rosemary-scented Guinness stew, it coated the tender morsels of beef and vegetables with richness. This indeed created a “lip-sticking” and intensely flavorful pie, which was finished with a top of buttery, flaky crust.


Trotter Gear (adapted from here)

2 sweet yellow onions, halved
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
1 head garlic
2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup Madeira or other sweet wine, or one bottle red wine (I used the remnants of some white and red wine)
About 1 quart chicken stock

1. Place everything but the liquids in a large pot. Pour in the wine and enough chicken stock to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook for 3 hours, until the meat falls off the bone and, in Henderson’s words, the trotters are “very wobbly.”
2. Remove the trotters from the pot. (I did not strain the stock as was suggested here. Why get rid of the goodies if they’re going into a pie with similar flavors?) Pluck the meat, flesh and skin from the bones and chop. (There are a lot of bones.) Discard the bones. Stir the meat, flesh and skin back into the stock. Makes about 6 cups. Adapted from Fergus Henderson.

IMG_9246trotter gear

Guinness Pie (adapted from here)

For the stew:
4 tbsp butter
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
10 mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2.5 lb stew meat, chopped into bite-size pieces
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp dried rosemary
2 cups Guinness or other stout (one 16 oz can), plus 1 cup water
1 cup trotter gear or 8 ounces freshly grated Cheddar (I used trotter gear, obviously)

For the pastry:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
4 tbsp ice-cold water (you may need more or less; this was my approximation, as it was not stated in the recipe)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten.

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large, ovenproof pan fitted with a lid, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the carrots, celery, mushrooms and remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are dark in color and the moisture released by them has evaporated, about 15 minutes.
4. Season the beef pieces all over with salt and pepper. Add the beef, flour and rosemary to the pan and cook over high heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
5. Add enough Guinness/water to just cover the beef. Cover the pan and put it in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and stir. If using trotter gear, stir it in now. Return to the oven and cook for 1 hour more. If it remains thin, set the pan over medium-low heat, remove the lid and reduce the liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If using Cheddar, fold in about half.
6. While the stew is cooking, prepare the pastry: sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Using a pastry cutter or your hands, quickly work the butter into the dough until it is the texture of coarse meal. Add ice water, a splash at a time, until a firm dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
7. Let dough warm to room temperature. Place the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and, using a rolling pin, roll to the thickness of a computer mouse pad. Pour the stew into an 8-inch-square, 2-inch-high Pyrex dish or a deep 9-inch pie pan. If using Cheddar, scatter the remaining cheese across the top. Place the dough on top of the pie and pinch it closed around the edges using the tines of a fork, then slash the center lightly with a knife. Brush with the egg yolk, place on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is puffy and golden.

Serves 6. The stew was adapted from Jamie Oliver; the pastry was adapted from Fergus Henderson.
guinness beef pie


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chicken and andouille gumbo

To celebrate Fat Tuesday, we made a gumbo. A simple gumbo. No shrimp, no okra — just roux, the “holy trinity” (onion, bell pepper, and celery), broth, andouille, and chicken. I tried following a recipe by Emeril Lagasse on foodnetwork.com, but instead made a bastardized version of it to save some time. For example, I chose not to boil a chicken for its meat and broth, since we already had some left-over roast chicken meat in the fridge. The seasonings used to flavor the chicken and stock I added to the gumbo itself, and I tinkered around with the proportions a little, since they seemed a tad excessive as they were in the aforementioned recipe.

Making the roux requires the most care in gumbo-making. The rest is easy. J took on the roux challenge, standing over the stove and constantly stirring the roux to make sure it did not stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. With an ease of a true roux-master, he did this for about 30 minutes, until the roux turned into chocolate. The color, I mean, the color.

Below: Roux – 10 minutes in; 25 minutes in

roux, 10 minutes inroux, 25 minutes in

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
(adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s Gumbo Ya Ya)

1 cup flour
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups onions, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 links andouille sausage (1 chopped into small pieces, 2 sliced on the bias)
1 quart chicken broth
3 cups chicken meat, roughly torn or chopped into bite-size pieces
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves

In a large, heavy pot or a Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the oil and flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is a dark, chocolate brown color, about 20 to 25 minutes (J did this for 30 minutes). Add the chopped onions, bell peppers, celery and chopped sausage (watch out – this part sizzles like firecrackers). Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are very soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the reserved chicken broth and stir until the roux mixture and broth are well combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours (I threw in the seasonings here and shortened the gumbo-simmering time to one hour, tossing in the chicken meat during the last 15 minutes).

gumbo sizzle

We served the gumbo over white rice, the perfect companion for a rich, smoky stew with a little bit of fire.

gumbo over rice

And if you’re lucky enough to end up with a surplus of gumbo, it tastes even better the next day.

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My lab got together for a late celebration of the Year of the Pig (or Boar, however you like to call it) last week. It was a potluck dinner, and I was eager to attempt a few recipes, as my knowledge of Chinese cooking is severely limited. Case in point: a few months ago, I went to Ranch99 in search of star anise, a spice commonly used in Chinese cooking. After ten minutes of weaving my way in and out of the aisles in frustration, I spotted an employee wheeling boxes on a dolly. I desperately grasped for the Chinese name for star anise. In Chinese, the literal translation of its name is “eight-legged,” like an eight-legged star. I couldn’t remember how many legs it had, so I settled for the number five. In Mandarin, I asked, “Could you tell me where the five-legged are?” The guy looked at me quizzically, and repeated, “Five-legged?” I proceeded to explain that I was making beef noodle soup, and umm…you know, you put this thing in red-braised dishes. “Oh! You mean eight-legged!” He broke out into peals of laughter as I admitted that the name sounded right. He took me to the star anise, and I thanked him as he walked away, still chuckling. Putting the lack of chinese cooking know-how behind me, I was determined to produce a few good dishes to ring in the new year.

The first, whole sea bass (recipe from Epicurious), steamed with ginger and scallions, and lightly seasoned with soy sauce. Very simple to make, considering that I used to only cook filleted fish. A huge step for me, too, since I strongly dislike touching or even looking at dead fish. Reminds me too much of my pet fish that committed suicide by jumping out of a cup of water while I was cleaning his tank. Anyway, I think that handling the whole fish helped me overcome my disgust for dead fish. I actually enjoyed taking a picture of the uncooked sea bass.


The next, ketchup shrimp with scallions, ginger, and garlic, surrounded by baby bok choy. okay, so maybe “ketchup shrimp” doesn’t sound very appealing. but it is GOOD. My mom has been making this dish every time I go back home for a visit, and it is a favorite with my sister. The key to this dish is plenty of chopped scallions, minced ginger and garlic, and PLENTY of sauce that seeps into the shells of the shrimp (you can use prawns, too). My mom usually uses head-on prawns, but I thought the heads would scare my vegetarian friends, so I opted for headless shrimp instead.

Mom’s ketchup shrimp
– De-vein 1 lb medium-sized shell-on shrimp/prawns, using a pair of scissors and a toothpick to fish the veins out. Towel dry
– Coat shrimp in salt, corn starch, and cooking wine (I used Shaoxing). Let sit in fridge for 30 min – 1 hr)
– chop 3-4 stalks of scallions.
– mince 7-8 cloves of garlic
– mince ginger (similar amount as the garlic)
First cook the shrimp through in a bit of oil, but be careful not to overcook. Remove the shrimp from the pan. Adding more oil to the pan, sautee the onion, garlic, and ginger. Add several squirt-swirls of ketchup and a couple teaspoons of sugar, and allow ketchup to cook and caramelize (you can add more ketchup if you want more sauce). Add the shrimp and toss to coat.
Baby Bok Choy: Wash and blanch in boiling water. Remove from water. In a pan, heat a bit of oil. Add five slices of ginger. When you start smelling the ginger, add the bok choy. Very briefly cook by tossing the bok choy around in the pan, and season it with salt. When the bok choy starts to glisten nicely and appears slightly translucent, it’s ready.


Braised pork shoulder. I found the recipe online, but I can’t remember the source. I think Erin sent me something similar awhile back. Patience is key here, but the good thing is the dish pretty much cooks itself. Leave the pork simmering long enough so that the meat and fatty rind become soft and tender. The pork will have drawn in all the flavors and the color of the sauce.

This dish was one of my grandpa’s favorites. He loved eating the fatty rind more than anything else. I miss my grandpa…I wish he were still here so that I could make this for him.

Braised Pork Shoulder (Serves 10-15)

5 to 7 lb pork shoulder, with bone and rind (I bought two pieces of meat, one with the bone in, one without – the total weight came to be just under 5 lb.)
3/4 cup Shaoxing wine
1/3 cup dark soy sauce
6 crystals Chinese yellow rock sugar (each crystal about 1 inch sq).
1-1/2 tsp salt (I added more salt towards the end of the simmering time, because I found the sauce a little too sweet)
6 star anise cloves
1 cinnamon stick
6 garlic cloves (crushed)
4 thick slices ginger
1 whole scallion, trimmed
2 bunches spinach, washed
rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms, tossed into the reduced sauce and served with the pork
1. Put the pork in a large pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, simmer for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse.
2. Again add the pork to the pot with fresh water to cover, add the wine, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium, partially cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the spinach), and simmer the pork for another 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The rind and the fat should be very soft when it’s done.
4. Remove the pork from the liquid and keep it warm. Strain the sauce into a large skillet and reduce it over high heat. This may take a while, depending on how much liquid you end up with.
5. Meanwhile, steam the spinach until just wilted, salt it lightly, and keep it warm. When the sauce is reduced (it should be the consistency of a thick syrup), put the pork shoulder in the center of a large platter, arrange the spinach around it, and pour the sauce over.


And lastly, dumplings. Chinese New Year’s is incomplete without dumplings. Dumplings represent wealth, because they look a lot like the little gold bullion of ancient Chinese history. Potstickers are just pan-fried versions of dumplings. The pleated design characteristic of potstickers not only make the potstickers pretty, but it serves a function as well. The process of pleating the wrapper creates a flatter bottom to the dumpling, which allows for the dumpling to stand on its own and a better surface for pan-frying. As a note, though, nothing beats home-made wrappers, in both texture and wrapping ease. If only I had the time…

Vegetarian Potstickers
4 cups mung bean threads (also called cellophane noodles), softened in water and chopped roughly
10 oz. baked bean curd (available at Asian markets in the refrigerated section), diced into tiny cubes
16 shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped
2 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups Chinese chives, chopped
6 tsp soy sauce
3 tsp sesame oil
about 100 wrappers, packaged or home-made (round wrappers)

1. Heat 2 tsp of oil in a large pan/pot or wok. Cook garlic, then add remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Cook for 3 minutes. Adjust seasonings as needed.
2. Using a teaspoon, drop a small portion of filling into the center of a wrapper. Fold and pleat to encase. For ready-made wrappers, you must wet the edges by dabbing with water (I keep a bowl of water nearby and use my fingers to dab). Continue until you’ve used up all the filling.
3. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet on medium heat. Arrange the dumplings in the pan and cook until the bottoms are nicely browned.
4. Add 1/3 cup of water to the pan. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for five minutes.
5. Remove cover. If there’s still liquid in the pan, continue cooking uncovered until the liquid evaporates.
6. Using a spatula, loosen potstickers from the pan. Transfer to a plate by inverting plate on top of pan, and then flipping the pan/plate over.




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