Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pork Meatball Banh Mi

Sometimes, I strive for authenticity—with frantic Google image searches, cookbook consulting, crowdsourcing—but other days, I'm just out for delicious flavors coming out of my kitchen in various iterations.

Last night I went the banh mi route, using a baguette and carrots I had delivered by Indie Plate here in Baton Rouge. There's much debate about the right bread for banh mi, but you should be well off with a baguette from the local bakery: delicate crust, soft, chewy interior. Err on the lighter side.

For the vegetable spread, I grated my vegetables finely that they spread onto the bread slices with ease after marinating in the sugar and rice vinegar. Fine by me!

Finish with a slick of sriracha mayo, press it all together, and chow down.

Next time: Need to find a good side. Anyone for kimchi fries?

Pork Meatball Banh Mi
Yield: 2 servings


For the meatballs:
8 oz. ground pork
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoons sriracha
1/2 tablespoon flour
3 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
Salt & pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil (for cooking)

For the sandwiches:2/3 cup carrots
2/3 cup radishes (I used regular because Whole Foods didn't have daikon)
2/3 cup cucumber
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup mayo
1 tablespoon sriracha
1, 2-foot baguette, sliced into four sections and halved
2 oz. fresh cilantro
1/4 cup thinly sliced jalapenos


For the meatballs: 1. Mix together all ingredients except sesame oil in a large mixing bowl. Form into 1.5-inch balls and set in a baking pan covered with plastic wrap. Cover and chill for 20–30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 300. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs and brown on both sides for 15 minutes. Then put the meatballs on a baking pan covered with foil and place in oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking.

For the sandwiches:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine vegetables, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Stir and let sit at room temperature for one hour, stirring occasionally.
2. In another bowl, combine mayonnaise and sriracha. Cover and chill until ready to use.
3. To make sandwiches, Spread one slice of each sandwich with sriracha mayo, then top with cilantro and jalapenos. On the other slide, spread vegetable mixture and then top with meatballs. Press slices together and serve.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Take on the Spanglish Sandwich

Spanglish is a nice little movie that will make me pause when flipping the channels. Cloris Leachman! Tolerable Adam Sandler! Eli Gold's daughter! Téa Leoni (playing a nightmare)! And of course I can understand the hubba-hubba factor of Paz Vega.

Then there's that sandwich.

Late one night, in the throes of ... some stress or another, fake-movie-chef Adam Sandler cobbles together the sandwich of dreams. And we, the salivating viewers, lean a little closer to the screen.

Bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato, crunchy bread. It seems simple but looks exotic, ethereal almost.

So it should come as no surprise by now that I've made this sandwich a few times. I had to! Various iterations, all compiled eagerly and hopefully. Then enjoyed immensely.

Here's a simple iteration that should soothe your soul. I got for Creole mustard rather than mayo, spinach rather than butter lettuce, whole-wheat versus "rustic country bread." Added Swiss cheese on top of the Monterey Jack. Oh, and I fried the egg and browned the tomato in rendered bacon fat. As you do.

(Disclaimer: I am not a health nut.)


Spanglish Sandwich

(the "No Grocery Trip" edition)

Makes 2 sandwiches.

Ingredients:4 slices multi-grain sandwich bread
2 slices Monterey Jack
2 slices Swiss
4 slices bacon
2 eggs
2 slices tomato
2 oz. spinach
1 tablespoon Creole mustard

1. Heat cast-iron over medium. Add bacon slices and fry, pressing down with a spatula to render the fat. Reserve on a paper towel, pressing down to degrease.
2. Meanwhile, toast bread slices—two in the toaster. The other two will be toasted under the broiler with a slice of Monterey Jack and a slice of Swiss on top of each piece of bread. Toast for about five minutes until cheese has started to melt.
3. Return to your cast-iron and pour off a little bit of the rendered bacon grease. Add tomato slices and brown for 2–3 minutes on each side. Set aside.
4. Crack eggs into skillet and lower heat as the edges start to set. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then cover the skillet and let cook for 3 minutes.
5. Compile each sandwich as such: spread one slice of the bread with mustard. Add tomato, then spinach. On other slice (the side with cheese on it), add fried egg, then bacon. Press together and enjoy!
6. Oh yeah, grab some napkins.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Meyer Lemon and Sage Focaccia

I love spending a Sunday afternoon with dough. I've never been a big baker in terms of cupcakes and cookies, but playing around with breads is a blast. Focaccia is an easy one. One long proof (which I do warm for a relatively short time in a closed oven, rather than chilled for twelve hours in the fridge—yikes) and then a brief rise once its rolled out in the pan.

Using the same ingredient set from last year's Pesto and Mozzarella Focaccia, I made a few adjustments beyond changing the toppings. Rather than baking at 400 degrees for 15–20 minutes, I risked a 425 bake temp for 20 minutes. The outside was darker, with a crunchy, savory interior. Definitely an improvement.

Topped with thiiinly sliced lemons (blanched before sliced to cut down on the bitterness of the rind) and shredded fresh sage, drizzled olive oil, plus a sprinkling of sea salt and sugar. I can see myself remaking and tweaking toppings and sighing happily over this recipe for a long time.

2 teaspoons rapid-rise dry yeast
1 cup water, warmed to about 115 degrees
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the mixing bowl

For the topping:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 organic Meyer lemons
6–8 sage leaves, torn to bits
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt


1. In the bowl of your standing mixer, combine the yeast, water, and sugar. Stir to dissolve, and let sit for 3 minutes, until foamy. With the mixer fitted with a dough hook, turn the mixer on low speed and slowly add 3 1/2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Add the dissolved salt (doesn’t have to be completely dissolved) and slowly pour in the olive oil. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium and mix for about 8-10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Add the remaining flour a tablespoon at a time if the dough is too sticky.

2. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead a few times before forming the dough into a round ball. Place the dough ball into a large oiled bowl, turning it so that it is coated with olive oil. Leave the dough ball in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size.

3. Meanwhile, fill a small saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Add the whole lemons and blanch for 2–3 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Then slice the lemons as thinly as possible and set aside.

4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and coat a sheet pan with olive oil. Turn out the dough on your work surface. Roll and stretch the dough roughly into a rectangular shape; the dough should be about a 1/2 inch thick. Transfer the dough to the oiled sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 15 minutes.

5. Uncover the dough and top with lemon slices and shredded sage. Drizzle olive oil on top and sprinkle with sea salt and sugar. Bake for around 20 minutes, until dough is dark brown and lemons have begun to brown around the edges too. Let cool on a wire rack for 5–10 minutes until serving.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with a Celery Root-Ginger Dressing

Indie Plate promised me big, beautiful Brussels sprouts from Fekete Farms when I placed my order this week ... and they delivered. Right to my front porch in Baton Rouge, where I sat snapping pictures of my full haul until my fiancé got home and snapped me back into reality.

I served these divinely crispy nuggets up as an appetizer while the main course (pork and quinoa soup, blog to come) simmered away.

Honestly, I could have eaten these all night. Good thing I set a limit. Fresh ginger and minced celery root tossed in a sesame-soy mixture and finished with a squeeze of lemon juice. Drizzle of sriracha and sprinkled sesame seeds and chives. Et voilà! Start poppin' away.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with a Celery Root-Ginger Dressing
Serves 2 as appetizer.

8–10 brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 1/2 tbsp. olive oil

For the dressing:
1 1/2 oz. soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 cup minced celery root
2 in. fresh ginger, minced
Juice from one lemon

For garnish:

Black sesame seeds
Minced chives

1. Make the dressing: Whisk together sesame oil and soy sauce in a medium mixing bowl. Add celery root and ginger and toss to combine. Stir in lemon juice. Set aside.
2. In a medium skillet, heat up olive oil over medium heat. Add brussels sprouts, cut side down, and cook for 7–8 minutes, turning sprouts occasionally to brown both sides.
3. Add sprouts to dressing and toss to coat. Serve on plate and garnish with a drizzle of sriracha and a sprinkle of sesame seeds and chives.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Roast Potatoes with Artichokes, Lemons, and Sage + Cinnamon-Thyme Mushrooms

I'm officially an Ottolenghi fanatic. I'd been drooling over his cookbooks in stores for a while—now I have one of my very own. Gorgeous full-page pictures ... vibrant, unexpected flavor combinations ... I could gush for a while.

Putting my culinary crush to practical use, I found weekend lunch inspiration from two different recipes in Ottolenghi. First, the Roast Potatoes with Artichokes, Lemon, and Sage: not much more complicated than your average sheet of vegetables browning in the oven. But somehow it's more. Could it be the careful timing? Potatoes, garlic, artichokes, and sage. Then lemons. Then cherub tomatoes and olives. A final sprinkling of parsley.

Or is it the flavor mix? The sweet tomatoes and creamy potatoes matched with a powerful sprinkle of sage and briny olives and artichokes.

All that's certain: I used to despise olives. I've spent the past few months eating them with diminishing winces. But here today, I was doe-eyed.

For another side, I found the flavor combination just a few pages back from the roast potatoes. Cinnamon, thyme, garlic, lemon, and mushrooms. A quick sautée and it was ready. The original recipe called for a variety of mushrooms as well as cinnamon sticks. I opted for just sliced white mushrooms (to save money) and ground cinnamon (because I forgot to double-check my pantry before I went to the store), and it was plenty delicious. I'll go the extra mile next time, and I expect it to be divine.

Salmon seared on a salt block for the final component. As it was my first time with a salt block, I followed these guidelines. On my electric range, I placed the block in a square cake pan (couldn't find my springform) and heated it up to medium-high in increments for about 45–50 minutes. Salt-and-peppered the salmon, rubbed it with olive oil, and cooked it for 6 or 7 minutes on each side, topping it with a Meyer lemon slice once flipped. Success!

Now on to pictures and recipes:

And here's how you make it...

Roast Potatoes and Artichokes with Lemon and Sage (adapted from Ottolenghi)
Serves 4 to 6 as side.

1 lb. fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
1 lb. marinated artichokes, sliced 1/4-inch thick horizontally
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh sage, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeds removed
9 oz. cherub tomatoes
heaping 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
2 tbsp. coarsely chopped parsley

Method:1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. On the stove, place a large saucepan filled with well-salted water. Add potatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Then drain and let cool slightly.
2. Halve the potatoes lengthwise and place them on a large rimmed baking sheet. Add artichoke slices, olive oil, sage, salt, and pepper. Mix well, then place in oven.
3. After vegetables have been roasting for 30 minutes, add lemon slices and stir mixture with wooden spoon. Return to oven.
4. After another twenty minutes, mix in cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives.
5. Remove from oven. Stir in some of the chopped parsley and use the rest for garnish.

Cinnamon-Thyme Mushrooms (inspired by "Mixed mushrooms with cinnamon and lemon" from Ottolenghi)
Serves 2 to 3 as side.

Ingredients:8 oz. sliced white mushrooms
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. fresh thyme
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Juice from one lemon

1. Heat up olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, thyme, cinnamon, and parsley and shake pan quickly to prevent sticking. Cook for 2 minutes.
2. Spread sliced mushrooms in a layer over the spices. Cook without stirring for a minute, then stir constantly for 3–4 minutes as mushrooms brown.
3. Serve hot or warm.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Turnips with Creole Mustard Jus

Oh, sauce. Make a good one and you'll be licking the plate clean. You'll be hiding in the corner of your kitchen sipping on it as an apéritif. You'll be brainstorming for future applications. You'll whip it up again the next night.

Creole mustard jus came into my life during a Test Kitchen I did for Country Roads Magazine. The dish was Prosciutto-Wrapped Quail complete with Creole mustard jus and mustard greens gnocchi. Such a wonderful sauce that it simmered along on the stove while I maneuvered my way through the more complicated aspects of the recipe (up to the elbows in flour and gnocchi dough, but loving every minute).

And so it found its way into my dinner the next night. I had brussels sprouts and turnips from the Baton Rouge gourmet grocery delivery service Indie Plate, and I wanted to put them to good use in a warm, full-flavored dinner. Winter in Louisiana is a brutal time, taking no prisoners.

I browned the vegetables in pancetta fat, drizzled them with Creole mustard jus, and then finished the pan off in the oven. Crisp, tender, and just what I needed. Now where to use this sauce next...

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Turnips with Creole Mustard Jus
Serves 3–4 as entrée; 4–6 as side

4 oz. diced pancetta
1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1–1 1/2 inch pieces 
Creole Mustard Jus
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Render pancetta in a medium cast-iron skillet. Once pancetta has begun to crisp, remove from the skillet and set aside.
  2. Add brussels sprouts and turnips. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes until vegetables have begun to brown.
  3. Pour Creole mustard jus over the skillet, then place in oven to cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, and serve.

For Creole mustard jus:

1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup carrot, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/2 tsp. tomato paste
3 tbsp. white wine
1 + 1/2 cups low sodium or
no-salt chicken stock
3 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp. Creole mustard


  1. In a saucepan, sweat the onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil. Stir in the tomato paste. Cook one minute then deglaze with white wine. Add the chicken stock and thyme sprigs. Reduce by half or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Strain the sauce into a clean saucepan. Add the Creole mustard and stir to combine. Leave on low heat until ready to pour on vegetables.

Brunch Tips: A New Year's Start

Long overdue for blogging! As such, I've made it eleven days into the new year without an update. The entry you're reading now comes especially belated because it highlights the first brunch—the first anything, actually—that I made in 2015.

To date it less: just consider it a lovely, filling meal pulled together after a late night out with friends, cocktails, and champagne toasts.

Rather than an improbably accomplished chore, this meal (consisting of asiago grits, fresh cherry tomatoes, roasted vegetables, pancetta scrambled eggs, and seasoned toast spread with strawberry preserves) was my way of wrapping 2015 in a bear hug. Welcome, welcome, welcome, new year ... what do you have in store?

Below I'll pass on some tips and strategies for pulling together your own hearty meal with low energy reserves and a variety of elements to manage.

Roasted vegetables are simply made with a vibrant presentation. Just chop-chop your range of vegetables; toss them in a mixing bowl with olive oil, salt & pepper, and fresh (or dried) herbs; and then spread them out on your baking sheet. Roast at 400 F for about forty minutes, with a half-time toss/stir/pan rotation.
• For little "callbacks" (and a way to cut down on your ingredient list and clean-up time), repeat elements throughout your meal. A few cherry tomatoes, un-roasted, can be tossed onto the plate for a pop of color (fresh herbs too). The asiago grated into my polenta was sprinkled into the scrambled eggs as well.
• Speaking of polenta: oh, man! After a vigorous whisk at the outset, the polenta doesn't need much tending, just the occasional stir. Polenta, homemade chicken stock, asiago, and a hint of tomato paste melded into silky smooth deliciousness. Leftover polenta can be saved and chilled for polenta cakes later, a fancy mop for divinely good sauces. For another brunchy application of polenta and fresh produce, check out my take on Alice Waters' polenta torta.
Confidence is key: Having a game plan, a mise en place, and a bit of choreography to your kitchen routine makes this late-morning activity enjoyable rather than panic-inducing. Twirl from oven to cutting board to fridge with a (slightly smug) mastery. If you have an audience, take care not break the fourth wall (especially when they shout "Brava!" or "When's this going to be ready exactly?") You are a god/goddess. Own it.

Other breakfast/brunch ideas from My Weekend's Cooked: