Archived entries for the savory and salty

Asparagus bundles with bacon,
panko and chili mayonnaise

ahirado4

This is my first entry in Beets N Squash YOU! a monthly themed recipe contest with a featured vegetable. This month it’s my favorite spring veg: asparagus.

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My usual preparation for asparagus is simple: grilled or stir-fried with garlic and salt. It’s one of those vegetables that needs very little attention to taste great.

But, with Easter coming up, I thought I’d get a little more ambitious. One of my fave restaurants here in The Hague is Mochi, which unfortunately bills itself as ‘Japanese-Latin fusion’. (Anyone who knows me knows I’m a total hater on the asian fusion front.) However. The food, which of course is trendy little dishes, is delish, so I’ll forgive them for that as well as their fusion sins. The best dish there, in my opinion, is an appetizer called asperges hirado. It involves all my favorite things: Asparagus. Bacon. Panko. Deep-frying. Mayonnaise. Need I say more?

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So I thought I would take a stab at it. What’s even better is that this is the easiest thing ever to make, and it looks great, so would make a pretty appetizer for guests. The key to its success is using pencil-thin asparagus and very thin-sliced bacon. If the asparagus is too thick, it won’t cook through. For the bacon, I used ‘ontbijtspek’ for this (basically a super thin breakfast bacon that is a little bit sweet). Thin pancetta, or even proscuitto would work here; just don’t use thick-sliced bacon because the deep-frying will go super quick.

At Mochi they serve this with wasabi mayonnaise. I made a milk mayonnaise with garlic, then mixed it with sweet chili sauce, two to one. A little sweet, a little spicy. Perfect for the salty crunchy asparagus bundles.

Asparagus bundles with bacon, panko and chili mayonnaise
serves 4-6 as an appetizer

Ingredients
200g thin asparagus
about 200g thinly sliced bacon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup of panko breadcrumbs (more or less)
300-400ml sunflower oil for frying

For the chili mayonnaise
1/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade or store-bought)
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce

  1. The asparagus should be about 20cm long (8 inches or so, or less). This makes it easier to wrap in the bacon and to fry. Group the asparagus in bundles of five.
  2. Wrap each bundle with one or two slices of bacon, keeping the asparagus tips exposed. Basically there should be two layers of bacon to keep the bundle together.
  3. Place the egg in a shallow dish, and the panko in a separate shallow dish. Dip each bundle first in the egg, then the panko.
  4. Heat the oil in a saucepan to 325 degrees F (160 C). Fry the bundles in batches, turning them with tongs as they become golden. Each bundle shouldn’t take more than 2-3 minutes.
  5. Slice each bundle into two pieces. Combine the mayo and chili sauce. Serve immediately.

Caldereta

caldereta1

Caldereta is one of my favorite comfort foods. Traditionally, it is a Filipino beef stew with tomatoes. This is a dish you will often see at turo-turo places – otherwise known as point-point joints. At the point-point joint, you point at the steam tray that looks best to you. More accurately, the steam tray that looks least repulsive. They stir up the lukewarm mixture, breaking up the grease on top, and slop it into a Styrofoam container with a heap of rice. (Can you tell I’m not a big fan of the steam tray places?)

Let’s just say there’s a turo-turo place in the city I used to live in that continually seemed to get shut down by the health department. And that was the “okay” place. *shudder*

That said, it makes sense to make your caldereta from scratch because it is fantastic when it’s homemade. I’m not going to make any serious claims toward authenticity here. I add a bit of tamarind in the beginning for sourness, and a can of good whole tomatoes instead of some fresh ones. Oftentimes you find green beans in caldereta, but instead I add potatoes (you can’t go wrong with meat and potatoes) and stir fry crisp green beans as a side dish. As I’m frying the onions in the beginning, I also throw in a big pinch of red pepper flakes to add a little heat.

I use beef chuck for this, and instead of cutting it into cubes, I leave the pieces large (easier when you are browning it) and slow cook it long enough for the meat to fall apart. Also a secret addition: if you have a piece of bone-in oxtail, add it. It gives great flavor. And by the way, this is great in a slow cooker: a winter dinner that’s ready as soon as you get home from work. What can be better?

Caldereta
Serves 4-6 with steamed rice
UPDATE: Thanks to Allan’s comment below, I’ve added liver pate as an optional ingredient, and adjusted the tamarind paste also as an optional ingredient (as it’s not really traditionally used). Many Filipino cooks use liver pate as a thickener in this dish. I prefer it without, but feel free to try it!

Ingredients
Vegetable oil
2 pounds (1 kg) boneless beef chuck
1 medium piece of oxtail (optional)
1 15-oz (500g) can of whole tomatoes
1-1/2 cups water
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch knob of ginger, grated or minced
1 tablespoon tamarind paste (use a tablespoon balsamic vinegar if you don’t have tamarind) (optional)
3 tablespoons liver pate (optional)
½ pound cubed, peeled red potatoes
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons salt
A small handful of cilantro, minced for garnish (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 F (120 C). (If you are using a slow cooker, do everything up until step 5, then add the ingredients to the slow cooker.)
  2. Rinse and dry the beef and oxtail, if using. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large Dutch oven, heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil over high heat. Brown the meat on all sides, doing this in batches to avoid crowding. Set it aside.
  4. In the same Dutch oven, add a little bit more oil, and fry the onions over medium-low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tamarind, garlic, ginger and red pepper and stir for another minute. Dice the tomatoes (or, if they’re soft enough, shred them with your hands over the pot), and add them with the juice, and the liver pate, if using. Add the water, salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the meat and cover. Put the Dutch oven in the oven and cook for 3-4 hours, checking it to make sure there’s enough liquid every now and then. After about 3 hours, add the potatoes and continue baking for another hour. The meat should come apart easily with a fork.
  6. Serve with rice. This tastes great the next day.

Siopao asado

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My New Year’s cooking resolution is to cook more Filipino food, specifically food that I grew up eating. The other week I was having a discussion with my 6-year-old, and told him I was cooking one of Grandma’s recipes. He was like, “oh, so you’re making Chinese food?” Um, nooooo.

I cook a lot, and I cook ‘fiesta’ food on special occasions (pancit, lumpia, leche flan), but aside from rice, I surprisingly don’t cook a whole lot of Filipino food on the regular. I plan on changing that this year: some old recipes and also, hopefully, some recipes I haven’t tried yet will make their way onto this site. I may have to rename it “Crispy Pata” to be accurate!

So in reference to our Chinese/Filipino discussion, I started the year by making siopao on New Year’s day. Siopao is basically a Filipino adaptation of the steamed Chinese char siu bao, but with a uniquely sweet/salty pork filling that is purely Filipino.

I was a bit disappointed with the recipe I ended up using for the dough, so if you have a dough recommendation, send it my way! I found this dough did not have the light, fluffy, slightly chewy quality of most Filipino siopao. (For example, I almost never see siopao that have cracks in it.)

The filling is my own because the Filipina ladies in my family would kill me if I published their top secret recipes. I guesstimated the ingredients, made it my own (I love pork belly so I used it here) and it came out incredibly close to the asado filling I grew up eating.

Siopao asado
Makes a dozen steamed buns

For the bun:
1 cup warm water (about 110F)
2-1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (if you only have active dry yeast, make sure to proof it first)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:
2 pounds (1 kg) pork belly
1 cup chicken broth
1 small onion, diced (the size of a shallot)
3 tablespoons Filipino soy sauce (such as Datu Puti, if you don’t have it, a ‘superior’ soy sauce will work)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons sugar

  1. Preparing the filling: Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Combine the pork belly with the chicken broth in a baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 2 hours, or until the pork is very tender. Remove from oven and discard the broth (or set it aside for a different use).
  2. Raise oven temperature to 450 F (220 C). Place the pork back in the oven, uncovered, and roast for 30 minutes, fat side up. Remove and let the pork cool, then chop it into bite-size pieces.
  3. Combine the soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce in a small bowl. Heat a wok over medium high. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil, swirl it around, and add the onion. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the pork and the sauce. Heat through until the sauce has thickened a bit, about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste if necessary. Remove to a bowl and let the filling cool.
  5. For the dough: Combine the water, yeast, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Add the flour and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic and not sticky. I take it out of the mixer toward the end and put it on a floured surface to knead for a few minutes by hand.
  6. Grease the inside of a large bowl. Turn the dough into it and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 2 hours.
  7. Remove the dough, sprinkle it with the baking powder and knead it until the baking powder is worked in. Separate into 12 equal pieces on a lightly floured surface. Cover again with a kitchen towel and let it rise for 30 minutes. While the dough is rising, cut 12 squares of parchment paper to go underneath each bun when it steams.
  8. When you are ready to fill the dough, roll the dough out or flatten with your hands and fill with 2 tablespoons of filling. Pinch the dough closed, trying not to get filling on the outside of the bun.
  9. Prepare a wok for steaming. Place the buns in the steaming basket for 15-20 minutes. (Do this in batches if necessary)
  10. Serve warm, or allow to cool, then wrap them in cling wrap and keep in the refrigerator.

A trifecta of pork: Bacon-wrapped
pork tenderloin stuffed with
bacon jam

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Last year, my sister had clued me in to the wonders of bacon jam. I didn’t get a chance to try it, but fortunately, our friends Michelle and Tuffer brought us some from Seattle last month. Yes, these are people willing to schlep over meat products across the ocean. And for that, I am immensely grateful.

For those of you lucky enough to live in Seattle, bacon jam is available at Skillet Street Food. And luckily for everyone else in the U.S., it is also available for mail order on their website. (Stocking stuffer, perhaps?)

It’s great in the obvious applications: on burgers and sandwiches, and it makes a wicked grilled cheese. But inspiration really hit when I was planning on roasting a couple of pork tenderloin one night… why not stuff it with bacon jam?

So I took it from there. If I stuff it with bacon jam, why not… wrap it in bacon? And thus, we have a Trifecta of Pork.

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Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin stuffed with bacon jam
Serves 4
I make a garlic and balsamic vinegar pan sauce to go with the pork tenderloin. If you prefer something milder, a classic pan sauce with wine and butter would also work great.

Ingredients
2 one-pound pork tenderloins (about 500g each)
½ cup bacon jam
4 strips of your favorite bacon (my favorite is Nueske’s. Wisconsin represent!)

For pan sauce:
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup stock or water or pan drippings
3 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).
  2. Slice the tenderloins through to the middle. Spoon the bacon jam into the middle of it. Wrap the slices of bacon around the tenderloins and tie with a bit of cooking twine if necessary. (This will keep the bacon from unraveling when you cook it.) Sprinkle the outside of the pork with a bit of salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a heavy pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Add a small glug of vegetable oil. Brown the pork loin on all sides. (Don’t clean out the pan afterwards)
  4. Transfer the tenderloins to a roasting dish. Roast until the internal temp is 135 degrees F. (I like it a bit pink inside, let the temp get to 140 if you like it well done. This usually takes me 15 to 20 minutes.)
  5. Take the pork loin out and allow it to rest for 10 minutes
  6. The pan sauce: Take the drippings from the pan and add enough water or stock to it to make a half cup. While the pork is resting, place the pan where you browned the pork over low heat. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and the garlic. Scrape up the browned bits from the pan. When the garlic becomes fragrant (careful not to burn it), add the brown sugar and the cayenne pepper. Continue scraping the browned bits from the pan, then immediately add the vinegar. Don’t stir it for a minute while some of the acid boils off.
  7. Add the stock and reduce the sauce by half. Remove from heat and add the butter. Swirl it around to combine, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Links
Skillet Street Food: Bacon Jam
Nueske’s Bacon


Lentils with bacon and mint

lentils

When my mom came to visit last month, she brought one of the best gifts a mom from Wisconsin can give: several pounds of Nueske’s bacon. Oh, you don’t know Nueske’s bacon?

Then, my friend, you have not had bacon. Nueske’s is like, the cream of the bacon crop. The sort of bacon that makes you happy to be a carnivore. I know I’m prone to hyperbole, but really, it’s no joke.

Because I have a large but limited supply every time she visits, I try to stretch it out, and believe me, a little goes a long way. This, combined with my ‘eat-less-meat’ household campaign, and you get lots of bean dishes flavored with bacon.

This is one of my favorites lately. I use French, or Puy, lentils, the little speckled dark green ones. They are really nice for this because they keep their shape better and still look really pretty when cooked, unlike the larger tan ones which fall apart more easily.

Three strips of bacon. That’s all it takes to take this dish from silver to gold.

Lentils with bacon and mint
Ingredients
1 cup French lentils
3 strips of your favorite streaky bacon, diced, preferable Nueske’s, if you can get your greedy hands on it
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
½ medium onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
a handful of mint, chopped finely
a couple of grinds of black pepper

  1. Pick over and rinse the lentils. Place them in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, and cover with the water. Add the bayleaf. Bring the lentils to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  2. When the lentils are cooked, drain them in a colander, reserving about a cupful of the liquid. Discard the bay leaf. Set aside the lentils.
  3. Set the saucepan or Dutch oven back over medium heat. When hot, add the bacon. Fry until crispy and brown. (Don’t drain the oil). Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft. Add the cumin and fry until fragrant.
  4. Add the lentils and salt and pepper. If the mixture looks dry, stir in some of the reserved liquid. Simmer for another couple minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the mint.
  6. We eat this with rice, but it’s probably also very good with crusty bread.

Links
Nueske’s bacon
Crispywaffle: Tofu with peanut sauce



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