Al Pastor Tortas and Sundry Other Things

This is a placeholder, just trying to compile things from a past meal.

Al Pastor

3 to 3-1/2 pounds boneless pork loin or stew meat cut into bite-sized chunks
Salt and pepper
2 cups of fresh diced pineapple, reserving any juice
1/2 white onion, diced
10 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 to 6 ancho chiles, toasted, stemmed, seeded, soaked, then pureed
4 to 6 guajillo chiles,, toasted, stemmed, seeded, soaked, then pureed
1 chipotle morita chile
3 to 4 roma tomatoes, well charred and pureed
2 to 3 cups of water and reserved pineapple juice
2 tablespoons vinegar (pineapple, apple cider, or rice)
1 tbsp of brown sugar
1 teaspoon whole cloves, ground
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Salsa Roja

1-1/4-oz dried guajillo chiles
1 chipotle morita chile
14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce and fish sauce
5 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Salsa Verde

http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/01/charred-mexican-salsa-verde.html

Refried Beans

http://www.food.com/recipe/refried-beans-cooks-illustrated-406946

 

Escabeche
1½ cups carrots, halved lengthwise, then sliced into half moons
1½ cups jalapeños, halved lengthwise, then sliced into half moons
1½ cups small cauliflower florets (¾-inch pieces)
¼ white onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp salt
2 cup apple cider vinegar
6 Tbsp of dbr sugar
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¾ teaspoon dried thyme
¾ teaspoon ground allspice
6 cloves

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Lagman or Asian Ratatouille Noodles

In central Asia/western China there is a popular dish called lagman that is essentially a stewed/stir fried vegetable dish over noodles.  Sometime lamb is added, but I think it is delicious as vegetarian dish.  Here is my version where I have added some Chinese influence and western technique.

1 large eggplant, cut into 1-in pieces
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, crushed and liquid reserved separately
2 onions diced
8 cloves of garlic smashed
2 Tbsp of ginger julienned
2 Tbsp of tomato paste (optional)
2 Tbsp of doubanjiang (optional)
1 Tbsp of dark soy sauce
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of ground black pepper
1-2 star anise
1 bay leaf
1 small zucchini, 1-in dice
1 small summer squash or another zucchini, 1-in dice
1 red bell pepper, 1-in dice
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, 1-in dice
1 Tbsp of black rice vinegar (prefer Shaanxi)
Light soy sauce to taste
cilantro for garnish
fresh wheat noodles

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  3. Add onions, garlic, ginger then cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until onions are translucent and start to soften.
  4. Add tomato paste, doubanjiang, pepper flakes, spices and bay leaf then cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
  5. Stir in reserved tomato juice and reduce for a few minutes.
  6. Stir in eggplant and crushed tomatoes and dark soy sauce.
  7. Transfer pot to oven and cook, uncovered for about 40 to 45 minutes, until vegetables are very tender and spotty brown.
  8. Remove pot from oven and, using potato masher or heavy wooden spoon, smash and stir eggplant mixture until broken down to sauce-like consistency.
  9. Stir in zucchini, bell peppers and 1 tbsp of light soy sauce then return pot to oven.
  10. Cook uncovered for about 20 to 25 minutes until zucchini and bell peppers are just tender.
  11. Remove pot from oven, cover and let stand for about 10 to 15 minutes until zucchini is translucent and easily pierced with tip of paring knife.
  12. Using wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from sides of pot and stir back into ratatouille.
  13. Discard bay leaf then stir in 2 tablespoons of cilantro and vinegar.
  14. Season with salt, light soy sauce and pepper to taste.
  15. Serve with favorite wheat noodles and additional cilantro to garnish.

 

 

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Da Pan Ji (Big plate chicken) Recipe

Let’s finish up the trifecta of chicken stews with da pan ji, aka big plate chicken.  If you have never had this dish, I pity you.  It’s one of the all-time greats and I recommend you order it next time you see it.

When we were in Xian we found this restaurant that served two sizes of da pan ji, huge and hudger.  Even the “small” size was too much for two people and we were definitely not the only ones that wasted much of their dish.  It saddened me to see such profligacy of one of the most amazing plates of food.  The potatoes were nearly buttery and the chicken was chunks of perfect bone-in dark meat all bathed in a spicy, deeply flavored broth and some delicious hand-pulled noodles.  We went back again a few days later in the only repeat restaurant visit of our two weeks in China.  It was definitely the best thing we ate and we ate a lot of very good food.

Now I don’t claim to be able to top the version we had.  If nothing else I am fairly sure a large part of our dish was deep fried as that is the only way they could get the silky texture in the food and get it out to us so quickly.  This version is more stew-like and less a brothy stir- fry.  I hope it ends up good.  Also I struggled with how much tomato/carrots to add, so in this version I am just going to add a dollop of tomato paste and omit carrots.

2-3 lbs of chicken thighs, drumstick or leg quarters
1 onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 in of ginger, thinly sliced
2 tbsp of sichuan doubanjiang
2-4 tbsp of tomato paste
3-4 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 black cardamom (cao guo)
1 tbsp of cumin, ground
1 tsp of white pepper,  ground
1 tsp of black pepper, ground
1 tbsp of Korean or Sichuan red pepper flakes (mostly for color)
1 tbsp of Sichuan peppercorns, whole or ground (adjust this to taste)
1/2 tsp of ground ginger
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
10-12 mild dried red chiles (something like an Arbol will work), deseeded if preferred
2 bay leaves
1/4 c of Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp of brown sugar
3 c of chicken stock or replace some with beer
2 tbsp of dark soy sauce
2 tbsp of light soy, plus more for seasoning
1 to 1.5 lbs of potatoes (any type you prefer), peeled and cut into large chunks
1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 2-3 jalapenos deseeded and chopped
6 spring onions, whites cut into 1 inch piece and greens thinly sliced and reserved for garnish
1 tbsp of black rice vinegar

Preheat oven to 325 F.

On medium high heat, brown chicken skin side of all chicken, adding oil as needed, and in as many batches as needed.  About 6-7 minutes.  Remove to a cutting board and, for true authenticity, cleave into small bone-in chunks.

Saute onion, garlic and ginger until lightly browned.  Add doubanjiang, tomato paste and whole spices and saute until tomato paste is browned and oil is red.  Then add ground spices, dried chiles and bay leaves and stir constantly for about 30 seconds.  Splash in the wine and scrape up any browned bits.

Now add chicken stock, sugar and soy sauces and bring to a simmer.  Add potatoes and then transfer to the oven partially covered.  Braise for 15 minutes.  Add chicken thighs and braise for about 30 minutes.  Then add peppers and spring onion whites and return to oven for another 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and season with vinegar, additional light soy sauce and pepper.  Serve over flat wide wheat noodles or rice.

 

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Coq au Vin via the Yucatan

I was flipping through David Sterling’s Yucatan (gorgeous book) and I came across a recipe for chicken stewed in spiced wine.  It sounded a lot like a weird mashup of coq au vin mashed up with Moroccan tagine (though more likely the influence is by way of Asia) and then a Latin touch with the pickled things.  I wanted to make it more of a one pot meal so I added some typical stew vegetables, dropped the green olives (we are not big olive eaters) and drastically amended the preparation.  Sterling has great ideas for recipes, but I find the cooking techniques overly complicated and not optimal at the same time.  However, I am sure they are authentic.

4 oz bacon or salt pork in lardons
3 lbs of chicken thighs, drumstick or leg quarters
1 onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 oz of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1-2 tbsp of tomato paste
2 tbsp of flour
1.5 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of ground ginger
6 allspice berries, ground
4 cloves, ground
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 lb of button/cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 lb of carrots, large dice
8 oz of peeled pearl onions
4 c of red wine
1/4 to 1/2 c slivered almonds
2 tbsp capers
5 pickled jalapenos
2 Tbsp of red wine vinegar, more to taste
sugar, salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Brown bacon in Dutch Oven over medium high heat for about 10 minutes.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel.

Brown chicken skin side of all chicken in rendered bacon fat, adding oil as needed and in as many batches as needed.  About 6-7 minutes.  Remove to a plate.

Brown mushrooms for about 10-12 minutes.  Then add onion, garlic, ginger

Add onion, garlic, ginger, pearl onions and carrots and saute until lightly browned.  Add tomato paste and cook until lightly browned.  Add herbs, spices and flour and stir constantly for about 30 seconds.  Add wine and scrape up any browned bits.  Bring to a simmer and then transfer to oven partially covered.

Braise for 30 minutes then add chicken, almonds, capers and pickled jalapenos, using stove to return to a simmer if needed.  Return to oven and braise for 45 minutes to an hour longer.

Add vinegar and then season to taste.  Much of this depends on the sweetness of the wine you use. Garnish with reserved bacon lardons.

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Maafe or West African Peanut Soup

We found this Senegalese restaurant not too far from us.  The service is invariably slow, but it is worth it for the Maafe.  This is a dish of lamb stewed in peanuts popular all over West Africa and while heavy it is amazing.  Also the restaurant gets very good, fatty lamb.  Not the lean flavorless stuff that always underwhelms me at Costco (the only reasonable purveyor of stewing lamb cuts).

This dish apparently came over to the South as West African Peanut Soup.  Very similar, maybe a bit thinner.  Also it usually uses chicken.  I am going to deploy a chicken version here, but beef or lamb would work as well.

2-3 lbs of chicken thighs or drumsticks, skinless if desired
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
1 cup of peanut butter
2 onions
1 to 2 inches of fresh ginger
12 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp of tomato paste
1-2 tbsp of shrimp paste
2 spicy chiles (habaneros or thai bird would work)
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground white pepper
12 tsp. ground cumin
12 tsp. ground black pepper
14 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. fenugreek seeds
3 whole cloves, ground
2 bay leaves
1 large sweet potato, small cubes for stewing
1/2 lb of Yukon Gold potatoes. small cubes for stewing
1/2 lb of carrots, small cubes for stewing

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Puree the onion, garlic, ginger, tomato and shrimp paste, spices and chiles.  Saute this paste in a dutch oven on medium heat until it starts to stick a bit.  Meanwhile, puree can of tomatoes and peanut butter.  Once paste is nicely aromatic, add tomato/peanut puree and bring to a simmer before adding sweet potatoes and carrots and bay leaves.  Bring to a simmer again and then partially cover dutch oven before placing in oven.

Braise for 15 minutes, add potatoes.  Braise for 15 more minutes.  Add chicken thighs.  Braise for another hour.  Adjust seasoning with salt or sugar (depending on sweetness of peanut butter and personal taste).

Serve with white rice and copious amount of pepper.

 

 

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Wonder Woman Movie: Reports of Feminism Are Greatly Exaggerated

First, let me say that I enjoyed Wonder Woman.  It was definitely the most enjoyable DC universe movie since The Dark Knight.  However, it’s not as good as reviews would tell you and more importantly it has none of the philosophical or feminist depth that people ascribe to it.  I will tackle the movie roughly as events unfold.

The first part of the movie is set on Themyscira, homeland of Diana and the Amazons and tries to establish our hero’s childhood and training.  It is easily the low point of the entire movie.  The origin of the island that Hippolyta relays is complete nonsense.  Something about being sent to bring peace to Man (or men) then they get enslaved by Man at Ares’ provocation.  The gods try to save them and all die, but Zeus grievously wounds Ares, established Themyscira and shrouds the Amazons from view and, we later find out, gives his child Diana to the Amazons.  Zeus then dies.  The only credit I can give it is that it explains why all the meddlesome gods are not meddling; they are dead.

The ambiguous, maybe Greek, accent of all the Amazons distracted me and I think contributed to the dialogue feeling stiff and stilted in this section.  It’s not clear why a group devoted to peace spends all of its time training for war.  Nor why Diana is a child if the island has been around for roughly two thousand years.  Magic I guess.

This portion of the movie follows a typical path where Diana is a troublesome child with dreams of glory that defies her mother’s direction at every turn.  Of course the mother is just trying to protect her daughter.  For instance she proscribes her learning to fight; nevermind, that she knows Diana’s true destiny is to fight Ares.

Then WW1 intrudes upon the island in a really stupid combat scene.  The Amazons show no knowledge of good tactics and the over-used slow motion highlights ridiculous, flamboyant and ineffectual moves that seem out of place for an efficient, war-like population.  The movie ignores that in a place with no death for thousands of years it has finally returned again.  The Amazon’s response is to capture Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), learn of WW1 and then put their heads in the sand.  This seems odd given that all they do is train for Ares’ return.

Diana now runs off with Steve, despite not knowing anything about Steve or the situation outside.  This is just the first of many impetuous acts by Diana, who has the teenage viewpoint that the world is simple and fixed with simple solutions (in this case kill Ares).

However, this leads into the best part of the movie.  The most lighthearted scenes are in this section where Diana is the classic naive fish-out-of-water in dirty London and Steve is her exasperated guide.  In general, Diana and Steve’s relationship is one of the highlights of the film.  It is refreshing to see a romantic interest that is at least as well written as the protagonist.  Strange that it took a man in the role for that to happen. Unfortunately, this sets up a poor dynamic where Steve is the protagonist and Diana just follows him around and, later, punches people.

From here the movie deteriorates.  She trudges around the Western Front with an immaculate coat and her flawless complexion and later a tiara, despite this being a covert mission.  Diana is hopelessly naive and very poor at moral mathematics, consistently favoring the pain she can see over the greater good.  This doesn’t square at all with her view that she can save everyone if she merely kills Ares.  She also seems far too easily to equate the Allies with GOOD and the Germans with EVIL on a very biased source of information.  Overall, she is also very martial minded for a daughter of a people bred for peace and the movie never grapples with this inconsistency.

Which brings me to the worst scene in the movie, which ironically is also praised highly.  Diana hears something about a town being enslaved (I don’t remember this happening in Europe in WW1) and so she must do something about even if it jeopardizes their mission to kill Ares and save many people from being gassed.  Thus she decides to walk (like literally) across the gap between trench lines.  This is not heroic since she is not really in danger (not even a machine gun can nick her and she casually redirects a mortar shell) and showcases her ridiculous bullet deflection abilities.  Heroism requires sacrifice and hazard, which Diana rarely encounters in this film.  Heroism is not a demigod strutting through a battlefield and striking down mere mortals.

Then some stuff happens, with Chris Pines stealing the show and some contrived drama and petulance from Diana, yada yada.  She finally manages to kill the German commander she believes is Ares.  Except he is not Ares.  And for a brief moment you think that maybe Diana will engage in a little self doubt.  In fact I had read online that people thought that she grappled with moral quandaries and the best way to help mankind throughout the movie.  This is decidedly not the case as she approaches things with the confidence born of ignorance endemic to teenagers everywhere.  But alas, the real Ares decides, in an obvious plot twist, to show up and predictably proselytize to Diana and relieves her of the tedious burden of introspection.

The final battle is relatively dull for a clash between literal gods.  Ares is pulling punches because he clearly outmatches Wonder Woman and still holds hope of recruiting her.  It’s not until Steve engages in an emotional and heroic, this time for realz, self-sacrifice that Diana “powers up” on love.  YES.  “Love conquers all” is literally the theme the movie decides to explicitly state in the final battle and epilogue.  The after effects of a German gassing program and an Allied spy operation on a precarious armistice deal are not even touched upon.  In the end Diana was right, killing Ares was apparently all that needed to happen to end WW1.  Oh and love.

Thus, we have a female protagonist that is naive, ignorant and bereft of the limitations of her knowledge being held up as a feminist ideal.  This quote from a female journalist on the No Man’s Land scene particularly irked me: “I felt like I was discovering something I didn’t even know I had always wanted. A need that I had boxed up and buried deep.”  The ability to engage in mindless violence like a typical male action hero is I guess the incredibly low bar we set for feminism now.  Meanwhile we ignore that Diana is upstaged for much of the movie in wisdom and courage and heroism by her male romantic interest.  And the final bit of truth that she earns at the end is that “love conquers all” or as she puts it in some of the movie’s worst lines, “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”  That is a decidedly flowery feminine philosophy.

Oh and why does it look like a stray wind could blow the super model thin Wonder Woman away?  Every male superhero gets magazines devoted to their workout routine for their role (admittedly omitting the role of drugs), but we can’t ask Gal Gadot to bulk up a bit for the role of a WARRIOR PRINCESS?  Yeah a triumph over antiquated feminine stereotypes this movie is not.

 

 

 

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Beef Stifado and Braised Green Beans

I am not a huge fan of Greek food in general.  But there are two dishes I really love from the country: Stifado and braised-to-death green beans.  They are somewhat similar in flavor, but oh well.

Beef Stifado
2 to 3 lbs of good beef stew cuts (chuck, shank, short ribs)
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, crushed well
1 cup of chicken stock
2 large onions, caramelized
6-8 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
2 Tbsp of tomato paste
1 cup of red wine
2-3 lbs of pearl onion (I use frozen for price and convenience)
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of oregano
3 Tbsp of red wine vinegar
cooking oil as needed

(put the following in a cloth satchel if preferred)
6 cloves
2 teaspoons of allspice berries
1/2 Tbsp of black pepper
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 star anise
3 bay leaves

Method:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Brown the beef in large pieces in a large dutch oven.  Set aside and cut into stew chunk sizes, 1 to 2 inches.  Saute garlic and tomato paste until well browned.  Add caramelized onions, spice bag and ground spices/herbs and saute for about 30 seconds.  Then add wine and cook until glazed.  Add can of tomatoes, with juice, and one cup of chicken stock along with red wine vinegar and beef chunks.  Season stew with salt and umami boosters (soy sauce, fish sauce, Worcestershire, etc.).  Transfer to oven with lid slightly open.  Meanwhile saute pearl onions until lightly browned.  Add them to dutch oven after stew has braised for about 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Braise for another hour or until meat is of desired tenderness.  Serve over rice with feta cheese and parsley for garnish.

 

Mediterranean Braised Green Beans and other Vegetables
1 onion
6 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
2 Tbsp of tomato paste
1 Tbsp of red pepper flakes or to taste
1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, crushed with juice
1.5 lb of green beans
3/4 to 1 lb of okra, summer squash, zucchini or similar
1.5 cups of chicken stock
1/2 tsp of baking soda
salt/pepper/red wine vinegar to taste
Mint and feta for serving

Bring 1.5 cups of chicken stock to a simmer and add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and green beans.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute onion in a large pot until translucent and then add garlic, tomato paste and red pepper flakes and saute until paste is browned and then add spices.  Add green beans and stock and the can of tomatoes as well as additional vegetables.  Return to a simmer and then place in oven with stifado for about 40 to 50 minutes.  Season with salt,pepper, vinegar and garnish with chopped mint and feta.

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