Happy Pancakes

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While I absolutely love it, I don’t cook Asian food very often. One, it’s usually a special trip to a specialty grocery (though not super tough in NYC). Two, my feeling is that it usually tastes way better when I get it at a restaurant. This is especially true for me with Thai food — I just can’t perfect the curry flavor you get at a Thai restaurant. But I strayed from convention the other day and made this Vietnamese dish — from the same list of Food & Wine “best dishes” I’ve been reverting to lately.

They might look a little funny, but these “Happy Pancakes” are pretty delicious. The base is thinly cut pork and shrimp, along with mushrooms and onions and bean sprouts. All of that is bound together with a rice flour mixture, and wow. It’s pretty simple but has so much happening.

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The most difficult/annoying thing about this is having to cook each pancake separately, but the result is an awesome crunchy outside on these pancakes and such great flavor.

TW’s Tips

  • The recipe calls for cooking these on high heat and I was skeptical about leaving it covered for a full five minutes on high. But it works.
  • It does get a little smoky, so use your fan/hood.
  • It was hard to distribute the batter when pouring it in the pan since it’s not very runny. You can’t just tilt the pan to make it run around the pan. I ended up ladling and spreading it around the pan and then giving it a good shake, and pushing it around if I needed to.
  • I have to say, I have a hard time with the fish sauce in the dipping sauce. I like it when I’m served it, but the smell is just too pungent for me when I have to work with it myself. I ended up using a chile dipping sauce and a little soy because I couldn’t deal with the fish sauce.
  • A little bit of burnt edges on these make them even better.
  • I had to get the mung bean sprouts at an Asian grocery store. They are different than regular bean sprouts. Careful, they don’t keep very long.
  • These were even good reheated!
  • Make sure you have a skillet with a lid that fits.
  • Store the dipping sauce in a Tupperware with a Ziploc around it so your fridge doesn’t smell like death.

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Happy Pancakes

Ingredients

Dipping Sauce

  • 2 Thai red chiles or 1 medium jalapeño, thickly sliced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, thickly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons water

Pancakes

  • 1 3/4 cups rice flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound boneless pork loin, cut crosswise into very thin slices
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 10 medium mushrooms, sliced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts

Directions

Make the dipping sauce. In a mortar, pound the chiles, garlic and sugar to a paste. Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice and water.

Make the pancakes. In a bowl, whisk together the rice flour and 2 cups of cold water. Mix in the turmeric and scallion. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over high heat. Add 3 slices of pork, 3 shrimp and a few slices of onion and mushroom. Season with 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Stir the rice flour mixture again and ladle 1/3 cup into the pan; tilt the pan to evenly distribute the batter. Cover and cook until the sides of the pancake turn deep brown and curl up, 5 minutes. Scatter 1/4 cup of the bean sprouts over the pancake, fold it in half and slide it onto a warm platter. Keep warm in a low oven while you repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve the pancakes warm, with the dipping sauce on the side.

Cumin and Lime Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Creamed Corn

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Very often I default to a few select proteins for my meals–more often than not, it’s chicken– how boring! I’ll throw in ground beef, steak, shrimp, salmon now and then…but there are so many more options out there. I realized I needed a little variety. For instance, why no pork? Pork is delicious. This Rachael Ray recipe for cumin and lime roasted pork tenderloin gave me the inspiration I needed.

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The pork came out perfectly, still moist and tender, and with some spice and tang from the cumin and lime. The spicy corn was a great side dish — it’s got great heat from the jalapeño. I found some beautiful pork tenderloin at Costco — these came in a two-pack, with two smaller tenderloins in each package. Grocery stores often sell pretty large tenderloins and it can be hard to find smaller ones, so keep your eye out next time you go grocery shopping to see if your regular store sells them.

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TW’s Tips

  • I’m partial to fresh corn (versus frozen, which can get cardboard-y/chewy) — I found some husked ears at Costco and they were surprisingly good and fresh!
  • This does make a lot of pork — I got a little tired of eating it straight up, so I made mini sandwiches with avocado and Dijon mustard on rolls and they were delicious!
  • The corn makes a lot. Unless you’re feeding a bigger family I’d cut it in half and serve with a green vegetable as well.
  • The meat came out just perfectly medium with a little bit of pink left — perfect!
  • If you get a larger pork tenderloin you’ll have to cook it longer. These were a little over a pound each, for comparison.

Cumin and Lime Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Creamed Corn

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 lbs pork tenderloin
  • 2 limes, juice of
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves (4 cloves cracked, 2 cloves chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 (10 ounce) boxes frozen corn kernels (or kernels cut from 5 ears fresh corn)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 500°. Trim the sliver skin or connective tissue from the tenderloins using a very sharp, thin knife.

Place tenderloins on a rimmed nonstick cookie sheet; coat them with the lime juice, rubbing the juice into the meat. Drizzle olive oil over the tenderloins, just enough to coat (about 2 tablespoons). Season the meat with the cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper. Cut small slits into the meat and disperse chunks of the cracked garlic cloves into the slits.

Roast for 20 minutes; remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes, tented loosely with foil.

While the pork is cooking, preheat a skillet over med-high heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter. Add in the onions, jalapenos, bell pepper, chopped garlic, corn, salt, and pepper; cook 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are tender. Sprinkle with the flour, and continue cooking 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken stock and heavy cream; bring mixture to a simmer and then lower the heat to medium-low; cook until it is thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add in the parsley and cilantro; taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

Slice the rested roasted pork; serve with spicy creamed corn.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos

Hola, amigos and amigas! It’s been pretty steamy here in San Diego over the past few weeks, so I’ve been getting creative about how to still do some cooking without making my house approximately 8,000 degrees. While not heat-free, using a slow cooker doesn’t heat up the place as much as the stove and oven do. Enter slow cooker pork carnitas, which I found on the cool blog theKitchn. The result — super tender, slightly spicy, slightly citrusy pork that I made the centerpiece of some pretty delicious tacos. The best part — it’s so easy, you practically don’t have to do anything except shred the pork. Ah, the beauty of the slow cooker.

The funny thing is that I VERY rarely eat pork. And VERY rarely will I cook this big a piece of meat. Not because I don’t like it, just because…well, I don’t know why! The carnitas was incredibly tasty in these tacos — this is the type of meal I could eat for lunch and dinner for four straight days, which is basically what I did. And you can totally switch up the flavors by using different toppings — cheese or no cheese, salsa or no, onion or no. Endless possibilities, friends. I set this up as a sort of taco buffet — take your tortilla, fill with carnitas, add whatever toppings suit your fancy. Supplement with some fresh tortilla chips — I recommend the ones from El Indio in Mission Hills.

TW’s Tips

  • While shredding the pork is all you have to do, it isn’t easy, especially if you are picky about fat, which I am. I don’t want any in my carnitas, so it takes a little longer to make sure you’re picking it out. It’s worth the effort.
  • I took the almost-falling-apart chipotle peppers and garlic cloves from the slow cooker and shredded them up with the pork for more flavor.
  • This makes a lot of meat, so I froze some of it up in small portions so I can defrost it in one day for a meal that night.
  • I used corn tortillas, but when I ran out and used flour, I actually liked them better. Call me crazy.
  • I didn’t have a full cup of orange juice so I supplemented with grapefruit.
  • I used diced tomatoes instead of tomato juice since I had them on hand.
  • Must haves: avocado, hot sauce, cilantro. Fresh salsa from a Mexican market. Mmm.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

  • 1 (6-8 pound) pork butt, also called pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 8 whole cloves garlic, smashed
  • 4 chipotle peppers (canned or dried)
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • For tacos, add: corn tortillas, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, lime, onion

Trim excess fat from the meat and discard. Place all ingredients in the slow-cooker. Set to cook on LOW for 8 hours. Meat is done when it literally falls off the bone. When cool enough to handle, lift the meat from the juices and place in a large bowl. Remove the bone, then shred the meat.

Skim the fat from the juices and keep as a medium for re-heating the meat.

For carnitas tacos, reheat the meat and serve in corn tortillas with sour cream, cilantro, chopped red onion and lime wedges.