Sunday, October 6, 2013

An Asian food kind of day

I happened to be watching a program of one of those TV chefs who is traveling through Southeast Asia and cooking all these fabulous meals.  This put me on a panAsian (is that the correct phrase?) course to cook an Asian food kind of Sunday.  I have to start with something I really enjoy and have some kind of recipe for.  So I made a bahn mi.  I don't have the patience or experience to make the proper pork belly for this scrumptious sandwich and besides, I have no pork belly anyway.  That may not be entirely true as my freezer is busting, but I digress.  I start with some lovely lean ground pork that I had ground for me at the butchers.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it while the mixture was raw.  The real misfortune is that you can't smell the lovely fragrance of all those wonderful aromatic ingredients.  Start with ground pork, chopped scallions, chopped garlic, Thai basil (very important! Thai basil is best but hard to find, I just started growing it, but sweet Italian will work even though it won't taste exactly the same), fish sauce, Sriracha chili sauce, sugar, pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well and let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours to come together.  Shape into meatballs, or meatspheres like I did, and you can either pan fry or roast in the oven like I did.

Make your pickled veg. Shred some carrots and daikon radish (I suppose a regular red radish would work as well but I've never tried), then just dump these puppies in a mixture of equal parts rice wine vinegar and sugar with a pinch of salt and a small amount of water.  Let this sit for at least 1/2 hour before consuming. I like to keep a jar in the fridge. Then mix your spicy mayo.  Just some good quality mayo spiked with Sriracha hot sauce, some sliced scallions, sprinkling of bright green coriander leaves (cilantro) and a drop of toasted sesame oil if you would like that extra warmth in the mayo.
You can make this as spicy or not as spicy as you like.  Ah we get to the bread.  This is a very important part of this whole operation because the bread is the vehicle that brings all these luscious, simple yet complicated flavors together.  The traditional French baguette is not my favorite for this. I find the French baguette a little too hard and crusty, then again, perhaps the crisp crustiness of the baguette is better for a traditional pork belly and pate bahn mi.  However, I find a soft, semi-sweet, eggy bread to be perfect. In SoFlo we are inundated with sweet-types of breads.
This is the bread for a "medianoche" and is very easy to find here, so use what you can get your hands on, a slightly sweet brioche would be marvelous as I think the sweetness in the bread is what complements the spicy heat in the meat and mayo. Cover with your pickled veg, that happens to be acidic and sweet and you have an outstanding sandwich!

Garnish with some coriander leaves and very skinny strips of scallions (green onions) and don't forget to provide a little sprinkling of that gorgeous pickling liquid very sparingly over the meatballs!  My recipe is a take on any bahn mi meatball recipe you can google and play around with, so go nuts.

And now for dinner! Dinner will come from the Kingdom of Cambodia, or what used to be called the Kingdom of Cambodia? Oh well, Cambodia. It is clay pot chicken, but not in a clay pot because I don't have one.  So it goes like this, 1 chicken dried well.  Then come the aromatics. I stuff the cavity with some bruised lemongrass stalks, 2 or 3 chopped shallots, galangal is traditional but I couldn't find any so I used some thickly sliced ginger, some kaffir lime leaves (my friend has a huge tree) and made my own addition of a garlic head sliced in half then I mixed all this together with some oyster sauce.  Stuffed this lovely mix into the chicken cavity and brushed the outside with some teriyaki sauce and poured about half a can of coke over the chicken. Like I said no clay pot, so all this was in a roasting pan and covered with aluminum foil.  Into a 350 oven for as long as it will take to cook this chicken.  No pictures, but trust me it was delicious!

For my side I made some steamed jasmine rice and studded it with fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves. The smells are amazing. I think I shall finish this lovely chicken with a brushing of either hoisin or oyster sauce and place back in the oven for a few minutes and then serve!  I also have some of my spicy mayo concoction left over that will go beautifully with the chicken, not to mention some leftover pork bahn mi meatballs.  All this and some Alfred Hitchcock movies make for a perfect Sunday to complete a weekend that is just begging for my favorite time of the year. Autumn. This means baking for me so I should be busy updating my blog after my spring/summer hiatus. Keep cooking.

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