Creamy Jalapeño Sauce

This sauce is one of my new favorite things to keep on hand at all times.  I had this a few times when eating at the taquerias around Atlanta and just assumed the creaminess came from avocado when in fact, there is no avocado at all.  The bulk of the sauce is just peppers, onions, and oil.  This is about as cheap and easy as it gets.

This sauce is great as a simple dip with tortilla chips and it is also killer on tacos, turkey sandwiches, and hamburgers.

Note that the recipe calls for 7-8 average size jalapeño peppers and you do not remove the seeds.  The boiling portion of this tones the peppers down a good but but this is still a very spicy sauce.  If you want it less spicy you can take the time to remove the seeds after boiling or you can use half jalapeños and half poblanos.

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Creamy Jalapeño Sauce

  • 7-8 average size jalapeño peppers (or if you want it less spicy, use 4 jalapeños and 2-3 poblanos)
  • 1 small/medium yellow onion, halved
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil (I like grapeseed)
  • juice of one lime

Place whole peppers (stems and all) and onion halves into a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Boil the peppers and onion for about 15 minutes.  Reserve ~1/2 cup of this cooking liquid, then dump the pot into a colander to drain.  Let the peppers and onions cool for about 15 minutes.

Trim the very top of the peppers to remove the stems and then place the peppers, onion, garlic, salt, oil, and lime into a blender and blend until smooth.  If the texture is too thick, slowly add in some of the reserved cooking water.

Keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, shaking before using.

Gochujang Pork Belly and Green Onion Skewers

Pork belly is one of my favorite things (shocking) but it is something I do not treat myself to very often.  When cooked over a high heat fire, the alternating layers of fat and meat get super crispy on the outside and silky tender on the inside.

Like the meatballs I posted awhile back, this recipe uses the spicy Korean chili paste known as gochujang. It is used as the backbone of a spicy and sweet glaze for the skewers that gets super caramelized over the high heat of the grill.

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Gochujang Pork Belly and Green Onion Skewers

  • 3 lbs uncured pork belly without the skin
  • 1-2 bunches, thick green onions
  • 1/3 cup gochujang
  • 1/4 cup hoisin
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon garlic, minced

Slice pork belly into 1″ x 1″ chunks.  If the pork belly has the skin or an excessive amount of pure fat, trim it down to whatever amount you want.  You want enough to get a crispy fat layer but not so much that it is overwhelming (maybe 1/4″ or so).

Mix the gochujang, hoisin, soy sauce, molasses, rice wine vinegar, and garlic until smooth.  Put the pork belly chunks into a zip lock bag and pour 1/2 of the sauce over and toss to coat.  Seal it up and let it marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Cut the top half of the green onions (the all green part) off and set them aside.  Cut the bottom half of the green onions into chunks that are a little over 1″.

Slide the pork belly chunks and green onions onto the skewers, alternating the whole way down.

Get your grill going to medium hot.  Add the skewers and be sure to flip them every few minutes or so.  Cook until you have developed a nice crispy exterior and the interior is done (probably 15 minutes).  Brush with the remaining sauce halfway through.

Thinly slice the tops from the green onions and garnish the skewers when they come off the grill.

Vietnamese Bún with Shrimp

Vietnamese food is without a doubt one of my favorite cuisines.  In fact, I would say that Sichuan Chinese is the only thing that regularly tops it in my book.  Vietnamese food is a flavor explosion that hits all over the taste spectrum.  The salty umami blast of fish sauce, smoky charcoal grilled meats, the liberal use of fragrant herbs, and broths that simmer for days all culminate in a food tradition that is hard to top.

One of my favorite dishes, especially in the warmer months, is Bún (pronounced boon).  Bún is basically a bowl of cold rice noodles that can then be topped with infinite variations.  Grilled beef, grilled pork, shredded pork, shrimp, chicken, and even chopped egg rolls are all common toppings.  These proteins are combined with all kinds of fresh vegetables, pickled vegetables, herbs and peanuts, then they are dressed with a mixed fish sauce (nước mắm pha).

For the recipe below, the only thing you really need to follow is the dressing and the preparation of the noodles.  What you add in can be changed up to suit your taste or what looks fresh at the market.  I really like mine with roasted or grilled pork but today, I decided to go with shrimp.

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Vietnamese Bún with Shrimp

 

  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons water, to taste
  • 2 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh Thai (also sold as “bird’s eye”) chile, minced

Combine the six ingredients above into a small bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.  If you are not familiar with nước mắm, this will taste incredibly salty and pungent but remember, this is going to flavor a ton of unsalted veggies and noodles.  Cover the sauce and set aside (or place in the fridge if you like).

  • 1 tablespooon oil (coconut, grapeseed, or olive)
  • 1/2 lb large shrimp
  • 4 oz thin rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, drained, and rinsed with cold water
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded on a box grater or cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 large cucumber, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 handful chopped basil (can also substitute or combine with cilantro and mint)
  • 1/2 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Heat your oil in a pan over medium heat.  Season your shrimp with pepper and cook until just done.  Place the shrimp on a plate and set aside.

Place a half of the cooked and cooled noodles in the bottom of a bowl.  Top with shrimp, carrots, onions, cucumbers, herbs, and peanuts.  Spoon dressing over the top and toss to coat.  EAT.

 

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce

Just about everything is improved when it is wrapped in pork…that is just a fact.  Here prosciutto and a simple sauce is used to turn boring chicken breasts into a meal full of flavor.  This entire meal takes around 30-35 minutes and is super simple to put together.

Because this dish used both prosciutto and capers, you need to go light with your use of salt.

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Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce

 

  • 1 lb. chicken breast tenderloins (or chicken breasts cut in half)
  • 1/4 lb prosciutto sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other high heat oil)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2-3 tablespoon capers, drained
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • Salt/pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly salt and pepper your raw chicken, then wrap the chicken in a single layer of prosciutto.  Heat your oil in a pan over medium high heat and add the chicken.  Brown the prosciutto wrapped chicken for 2 minutes then flip to the other side, cooking for another 2 minutes.  Once browned, place the chicken into an oven safe dish and bake until it is cooked through (to 165 degrees).

While the chicken is in the oven, melt the butter in the pan.  Once the foam subsides, add the flour and whisk until it is incorporated smoothly.  Slowly add in your broth while continuing to whisk.  Add in the capers and lemon juice.  Keep whisking the sauce until it thickens to your desired consistency.   When thickened, add in the parsley.  Add salt and pepper if necessary.

When the chicken is cooked through, plate and spoon sauce on top.

 

Simple French Lentils

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/4 cup french lentils
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Heat oil in a small pot over medium heat.  Saute onions and garlic until soft, 2-3 minutes.  Add in the thyme, bay leaves, lentils, salt, pepper, and broth.  Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer.  Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are soft and cooked through.   Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Hot & Numbing Sichuan Cold Noodles

Without a doubt, my favorite food is Sichuan Chinese.  It shares similarities with other forms of Chinese cooking but it has elements that make it one of the most unique regional cuisines I have ever had.  One of the hallmarks of Sichuan cooking is the combination of “hot” and “numbing”.  The hot generally comes from chili oil or dried chilis and the numbing comes from the Sichuan peppercorn.  The peppercorn has a bright citrusy flavor and leaves your mouth with a slight numbing feel.

I looked up a handful of recipes but none of them fit the flavor profile I was used to having so I wove the recipe below together from some of those along with what felt right to me.  The result was a cross between the traditional Chengdu cold noodles I was shooting for and another noodle dish called dan dan.  I think it turned out great so no complaints here!

Some of the ingredients for Sichuan cooking can be hard to come across.  If you are able, you should definitely go to an Asian grocery if you are going to attempt this dish.  If you can’t,  I have included substitutes for some of the hard to find ingredients.  Note that most store-bought chili oil is weak and relatively flavorless.   I have included a picture of the brand I use beneath the recipe.  That particular brand is no joke…it is hot and full of flavor.

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Hot & Numbing Sichuan Cold Noodles

  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 12 oz pack of Chinese egg noodles (linguine can work as substitute)
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • tablespoons dark soy sauce, divided (regular soy sauce can work as substitute)
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • tablespoon sesame oil
  • tablespoons Sichuan chili oil with garlic
  • tablespoon brown sugar
  • tablespoon Chinese sesame paste (tahini or peanut butter can work as substitute)
  • 4 green onions, rough chopped

Bring a pot of water to boil and set aside a large bowl of ice water.  Cook your noodles until done, drain, then immediately put the noodles in the bowl of ice water to cool.

Place the peppercorns in a dry pan and toast over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Once they are fragrant and just starting to smoke a little, remove them from the heat and pour them into a bowl.  Grind the peppercorns using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder (or try to chop them with a knife).

In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of salt with your ground pork.  Next, in a pan over medium high heat, cook your ground pork until it is about half done.  Add in the garlic and ginger and continue stirring until everything is cooked through and incorporated.  Turn off the heat on the pork and set it aside.

Mix the remaining soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, brown sugar, and sesame paste in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved.

Drain the noodles again and toss with the sauce.  Lastly, toss in the pork mixture, the green onions, and peppercorns, mixing well to evenly distribute everything.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

 

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Buttermilk Dressing

As with the other dressing posts I have made, I am mainly posting this so I do not forget the proportions I use.  Most often I do dressings on the fly without a recipe but when one works just right I want to make sure I remember it.

 

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Buttermilk Dressing

  • 2 scallions, white and green parts minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic clove, minced fine
  • 3 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (if needed)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Combine everything but the buttermilk and mix well. Whisk in the buttermilk until the dressing is smooth. If it is to thin, add in the sour cream.  Season to taste.

Homemade Sloppy Joes

This recipe is about as standard and non-original as it gets…more than anything I just wanted to document the amounts I used when throwing this together.

There is nothing revolutionary about a sloppy joe and that is one of the main reasons it is so great.  A good sloppy joe sandwich is one of my favorite things in the world but yet I have always made them using a can of Manwich sauce.  Now, to be clear, Manwich is some good stuff…I am not gonna hate on it here.  But, why would I use Manwich with the preservatives and additives if I can make it from scratch?  I looked at dozens of recipes and hammered a few together to get the one listed below.

By the way, the picture below is totally stolen from the internet.  I devoured my sandwich before even thinking of taking a stupid picture.

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Homemade Sloppy Joes

  • 1 pound lean beef or bison
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 1/3 cup green pepper, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 dash worcestershire
  • 1 level tablespoon brown sugar
  • water (if needed)
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • Hamburger buns
  • Pickle slices (optional)

Heat a large pan oven medium high heat.  Brown the meat and drain off any excess fat.  Add in the garlic, onion, and green pepper and cook until they are softened (about 5 minutes).

Stir in the mustard, ketchup, chili powder, worcestershire, and brown sugar.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
Serve on soft buns with or without pickles.

Spicy Korean Gochujang Meatballs

I wanted to make something spicy for the Super Bowl this year and this was the result.  Gochujang is a fermented chile paste used in Korean cooking.  It is a little sweet, a little smokey, and if you get certain kinds, it is really spicy.  Gochujang comes in a variety of heat levels so you really have to tweak this recipe to fit your taste.

This recipe is largely based off a recipe found at Food 52.  My changes are more garlic, more sauce, and most importantly, using a mixture of beef and pork rather than just beef.


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Spicy Korean Gochujang Meatballs

Meatballs

  • 6 green onions, very thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil, for pan-frying

Glaze

  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 4 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Garnishes: sliced green onion and toasted sesame seed

 

In large bowl, mix together all of the meatball ingredients except the oil.  Do not overly handle the mixture…you just want to do it until everything is evenly distributed.  Form the mixture into golf-ball sized meatballs.

Preheat oven to 350.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the meatballs on all sides.  This will likely take 2-3 batches because you do not want to overcrowd them in the pan.  Once browned, place the meatballs on a foil rimmed sheet pan and bake until the internal temperature reaches 160° F (about 10 minutes).

While the meatballs are baking, combine all glaze ingredients in a small saucepot.  Whisk the ingredients together and then simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

When the meatballs are done, place them in a large bowl and pour the glaze over the top, stirring to get all of the meatballs covered.  Sprinkle with green onion and sesame seeds.

Calamari Salad

While my family is not Italian, we have somewhat adopted the holiday tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  This meal is typically done on Christmas Eve and is basically a seafood feast.  This year we had smoked salmon, crab cakes, seared scallops, garlic shrimp, among other dishes.  My contribution was this calamari salad.  This is loosely based on a recipe from Gourmet magazine with some of my usual changes (more garlic, more acid, more spice).

Note that the cook time on the calamari is indeed correct.  It only cooks very briefly given that it is being tossed in such an acidic dressing (almost ceviche).

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Calamari Salad

  • 2 lb cleaned squid tubes, sliced into 1/3″ rings (thawed if frozen)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 small red onion, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
  • 3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • 3 celery ribs, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick pieces
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, rough chopped

Bring a pot of salted water to boil just as you would for a batch of pasta.  While that is coming to boil, prepare a large bowl filled with ice and water next to your sink.  When the water has come to boil, add the squid and cook for about 45 seconds.  Immediately drain the squid in a colander and transfer to the bowl of ice and cold water to stop the cooking.  When squid is cooled, drain in the colander again and pat dry.

Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oil, garlic, salt, crushed red pepper, and pepper in a small bowl, then stir in onion and let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine squid, olives, tomatoes, celery, and parsley in a large bowl. Toss with dressing and season with salt and pepper.

Ideally let the salad marinate for at least a few hours before serving.

Shrimp and Grits for two

Shrimp and grits is a dish that can be done 1,000 ways and they are almost all delicious.  Some include tasso ham, some skip the cheese in the grits, and some use almost no vegetables.  The version listed below is just a simple weeknight version that can be put together in under an hour.

If time is not an issue, I recommend boiling your shrimp heads and shells to make a shrimp broth to use in place of the chicken broth listed here.

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Shrimp and Grits 

  • 1/2 cup white or yellow stone-ground grits
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1/2 lb. medium shrimp, peeled
  • 1/2 white onion, diced small
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced small
  • 5-7 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, cored and seeded then rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 4-5 scallions, thinly sliced

Bring 2 cups water to a boil over high heat and whisk in your grits.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until grits are tender, 25-30 minutes.  If your grits start to get too dry obviously add more water.  When the grits are tender, stir in the cheddar and then season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, cook your bacon until crisp, then set it aside on a paper towel lined plate.  Pour off all but a thin layer of the bacon fat.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, then add them to the skillet in a single layer. After one minute turn them to the other side and let them cook for another minute.  Move the shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon, keeping as much of the bacon fat in as possible (add more if need be).  Add the onion and pepper to the pan, cooking for 1-2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes until tender.  Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.

Now raise the heat to high and stir in the chicken broth and tomatoes.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to bring up any bits that are stuck.  Cook until broth reduces by half which should take ~3-5 minutes.  Return shrimp to the skillet along with the lemon juice, butter, and hot sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Spoon grits into bowls and top each with shrimp and sauce. Garnish each bowl with bacon and scallions.  Serve with additional hot sauce.

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