Sunday, June 21, 2015

NIAB: Slowcooker pulled pork

Many people ask what the most important cooking gadget I have in my arsenal. Most of the time I'll reply, my Chinese cleaver, as a universal tool used pretty much every time I work in the kitchen it is in fact my most important tool. But if we're talking about actual cooking device/gadget I have to say my slow cooker. I've talked a lot about it in the past and even labeled my them "Slo-mo bentos". It's a magical device that's great for all sorts of applications and you can't have enough of them (I personally have four back home).

So it's no surprise that the very first thing I purchased when I landed in Australia is a slow cooker. I was torn a bit, I like the simple off-low-high low tech version (great for a sous vide water bath when paired with a pid controller), but I opted for this multi function baby that has a removable non-stick insert that allows you to brown in the pot without taking up stove space.

What to make? Pulled pork obviously. I've done it in the past, whether it's a coffee rub, strawberry, or wrapped in a banana leaf. The slow cooker is a perfect portable oven, and although I prefer the smoke and bark produced in a smoker/grill I don't have that luxury in a small condo in the middle of the city. Usually I cheat and use a bit of liquid smoke to get that extra smoke flavor but apparently they don't sell that here (I have since fixed that by bringing in six bottles of the stuff from my last trip home). For the dry rub, I have a combo of brown sugar, black and white pepper, ground cumin, oregano, paprika, chili powder and some salt.

The hard part was actually finding the pork. One of the biggest changes for me since moving down to Australia is the little things that are different. It's kind of like the episode of old Star Trek where they end up in a parallel universe and they had a Spock but he had a goatee and was evil. So it is here, the bacon is "bacon" but not the bacon I love, more of a goatee sporting less good bacon (the bacon hear is made from the pork back). Pork butt and Pork shoulder are not terms that are used here, instead I figured out that  "Scotch Roast" Pork (which is a shoulder cut) is the closest thing but it they keep the skin on. I also swear that pork here tastes different than the stuff we have at home.

I opted to rest the pork over a bed of onions to elevate the pork from touching the actual walls of the pot. I did remove the skin from the roast, after applying the dry rub I laid the skin (also dry rubbed) on top, I figured the fat still on the skin and the skin itself would help protect the pork from drying. I took it outside to our balcony and let it go for eight hours. (so the apartment wouldn't permanently smelling of pulled pork)

In the end neither really mattered. It's surprising how much liquid rendered out of the pork. basically leaving the meat floating. I'm sure the onion contributed to the liquid for flavor but I could have just tossed the skin. I like the idea of dry roasting the pork, a lot of recipes call for adding a braising liquid. For leaner meats I agree (like brisket from a corned beef) but pork has a ton of fat it'll tolerate a dry roast. The pulled pork was good, a touch spicy for my wife and friends. I still prefer the simplicity of the Kalua pulled pork and now that I have the liquid smoke and found a place that sells banana leaves I might have to do another Hawaiian bento.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

TRIP: Melbourne Australia

We had a long weekend and decided we needed to see more of Australia so we booked a flight and a inexpensive serviced apartment and landed in Melbourne. A portion of my coworkers were from our Melbourne office (we collapsed everyone into Sydney) and they had plenty of suggestions as to where to go. The way it has been explained to me, Sydney and Melbourne are very much like L.A. and San Francisco back home. Sydney, like LA, has beaches and warmer weather and people tend to hangout preferring more outdoor activities, Melbourne like SF is colder and it tends to rain so people tend to stay indoors and as a result there are better restaurants, arts, etc. From our short three day tour, I'm in agreement with generalized comparison. Here's what we did:

Our first day we spent a lot of time walking around. Where we were staying (near Chinatown area) there are lots of narrow lane one way streets. Our first restaurant was Il Bacaro Cucina and bar tucked away in one of those narrow streets. We walked past it twice while trying to look for it. The place was nice and cozy and service was very attentive and knew their food very well. We got the calamari, which was lightly breaded (looked like very fine panko or tapioca flour) with rocket and vinaigrette. Very tender and tasty. My wife had a small pasta course of pumpkin and foie gras agnolotti, (we should have ordered the large) and I had the braised goat with porcini. The hand made pasta was delicious, the goat was very tender, a bit too gamey for my wife, but I enjoyed it just fine definitely a good start to Melbourne cuisine.

More walking and we ended up at the Queen Victoria Market. It's part old style market with stalls of vendors sectioned into meats, cured goods, seafood and an open air section for veggies, fruits and various goods (souvenirs, leather goods, trinkets).

For Dinner we ended up at "Xi'an famous food Restaurant". Neat place, small menu, we especially like the Cold Noodles in sesame sauce. Spicy and a touch sour with bean sprouts and cucumber. My lamb soup was perfect for the windy cold evening, a simple soup of thinly cut lamb and vermicelli it was served with a pan fried bun (which I used to sop up the sesame sauce from the cold noodles). My wife had spicy pork noodle soup.

The next day we started off with an early lunch at Chin Chin restaurant and "Go Go bar". Chin Chin serves a modern southeast Asian cuisine very delicious. As you can see we ordered a lot. Our favorite was the King fish sashimi it was served in a coconut nahm jim sauce. The mains were a twice cooked beef short rib and a duck curry. Everything was super fresh tasting. I loved it so much I purchased their cookbook. I put this on definite try list if you visit Melbourne.

We took a walk across the south bank and stumbled across an exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria about the Golden age of China (the rule of Emperor Qianlong). I heard many history stories about this period growing up so we stopped by and took a look. It was a fascinating exhibit full of really well preserved artifacts. Afterwards we stopped upstairs and had some tea, sandwiches and a broccoli chowder.

Here's a cool shot of some handmade kaleidoscopes we saw at one of the "Sunday markets" we walked by.

Ending day two we dropped by Movida but it had a two hour wait (we were warned most restaurants would have a ridiculous wait). We lucked out and got a quick seat at their sister restaurant next door aptly named "Movida Next Door". As if we didn't already have enough food for the day I promptly ordered seven dishes (mostly tapas), I would have done a Hobbit proud. The food was delicous, I especially enjoyed the Morcilla which was a Spanish blood sausage with a sous vide poached egg. The Oreja (fried pig ears) were melt in your mouth delicious. Also pictured, Oxtail, pork belly, Mussels, Duck, "Bomba". I highly recommend checking this place out also.

Day three was departure day, but we did book lunch at Nobu in the Crown Tower (the big casino). Lunch was a bit pricey but delightful. I enjoyed the mushroom soup with five different roasted mushrooms. The big hit was the Duck Breast fig teriyaki, confit duck leg and cabbage harumaki with Carrot Ginger Miso (bottom right picture), a hint of sweetness in the carrot puree and the confit "egg rolls" really were delicious together.

That was a lot of food, I'm glad we walked around. I would definitely love to come back and visit some more. There's just so much food and fun stuff to explore it was a whirlwind of a trip. I highly recommend a visit to Melbourne if you find yourself in Australia!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Beef Stroganoff over Zoodles in a box

As a kid I loved those packages of instant stove top noodles. Not just ramen but the ones that were "broccoli cheese", "alfredo", where you just add milk and butter, maybe some ground beef or tuna if you were using a "helper" version and voila dinner at $1.50 an envelope. I particularly liked the beef stroganoff, something about that powdered sour cream I suppose.

Over the years, whenever I have a chance I order the dish and some variation has made it into this blog whether it's meatballs or eating on the cheap. This time I'm going to make it my main focus.

First the pasta. With my new Veggie Twister device I decided to go with a "zoodle" option. The pasta honestly is just a conveyance for the sauce and the beef. I figured using zoodles I could save a few hundred calories and guilt. Just using zoodles freshly cut there's just way too much moisture in the zucchini. I decided to salt the zoodles first and let them sit for 30 mins to draw out some excess moisture. As you can see I used about five zucchini that was intended for a double serving of the recipe, I think I actually needed ten.  After rinsing and squeezing out the extra moisture I blotted them dry and the quickly pan fried them to get them to soften. Some people stop after the salt step I believe that's the "raw" version of the noodles. As I said in my previous post, you're not going to fool anyone into thinking that this is some funky green colored pasta but this certainly did work well in this application.

I took four different stroganoff recipes and fused them into my usual frankenstein monster. (yeah that's about $70 worth of beef this is kind of an expensive recipe, it's Australia I've come to expect nothing less)

 I really liked the idea of using beef steak cooked to desired doneness rather than cooking strips of steak in the sauce, it makes for more tender meat. The rub had a bit of paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. I seared it quickly to about medium rare, there was plenty of fond at the bottom of the pan to start the basis of the sauce.

For the rest I modified the sauce base. I went with a combo of shallots as well as yellow onion. Pretty much all of the recipes had you cook the mushrooms and the onions together (mushrooms first and the onions to join later). I had to back out of that mid way since the mushrooms were going to overcook. (maybe I should have used lower heat). I ended up cooking the onions and shallots separately and then re-adding the cooked mushrooms.

For the liquids: a nice beef broth, add in some Worcestershire and soy as well as some thyme and ground mustard. I dropped the steaks back in to warm up and get some of the beef juices back into the sauce. Once everything was happy and cooking I thickened with some cornstarch. To finish usually you go with a healthy dose of sour cream but one of the recipes opted for greek yogurt. I liked the idea of using greek yogurt instead of sour cream it saves 60% of the calories and fat from even low fat sour cream.

To serve I sliced the steak and served it atop the sauce with a bit of flat leaf parsley for color. The end result was a beautifully cooked steak over my favorite flavors of beef stroganoff.

I still need to compile the recipe from my notes and alterations. I'll post it up when I'm done.

Edit: (Sorry it took so long, I finally managed to compile my notes)
Beef Stroganoff
1 Tbsp Salt
1 Tsp Pepper
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 cu beef stock
12 oz button mushrooms quartered
4 (1.5-2 inch thick) of beef tenderloin steaks about 1.5 lbs
1 tbsp butter
1 shallot (thinly sliced)
1 small onion (sliced)
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp worcestershire
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp dried thyme
3 tsp corn starch
1 cu greek style yogurt
  1. Noodles/zoodles prepared to instruction
  2. Mix 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp Pepper, 1 tbsp Paprika together and sprinkle over all sides of the steak. Turn stove on to high and heat skillet with a bit of oil. Sear steaks until Medium/Medium rare (touch method). Remove from heat and cover with foil 
  3. In the same skillet turn to medium heat cook mushroom until liquid is released and the mushrooms began to brown about 8 mins. Remove from Skillet 
  4. Melt butter in skillet and cook Shallots and onions until golden about 6 mins. Add mushroom and deglaze with Beef stock, scrape up the bits at the bottom of the skillet. Reduce 1/3. 
  5. Add Soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, dijon, thyme and turn heat to medium low and bring to simmer.
  6. Mix Cornstarch with cold water. Slowly drizzle into the sauce while stirring to thicken the sauce. 
  7. Whisk in yogurt bring sauce up to heat but do not let boil if you want a more tangy sauce add more yogurt. When simmering add whole steak, make sure to turn the steak and heat through. 
  8. Remove steak and slice into 1/2 inch thick strips. Serve sauce over the noodles and top with steak slices.

Box Contents:

  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Zucchini "noodles" or "Zoodles"