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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cherry Blossoms + Boston


Since this was our first spring in D.C., coincidentally it was also our first time seeing the the cherry blossoms!  In the early 1900's, the mayor of Tokyo gifted our capital with over 3,000 cherry trees. Each year, tons (an I mean MILLIONS) of people head into our Nation's Capital to see this lovely sight.

Now these pictures may look very peaceful and beautiful, but I had to maneuver myself like a magician in order to get shots that did not include the MASSES of people.  We literally could not move because the entire mall and tidal basin were filled with a sea of tourists.  After living here, I am slowly learning (the hard way) that there are many times to avoid the city.  This being one of them.

I'm not saying it wasn't a gorgeous sight to see.  The sheer impact of all of these pink and white blossoms is breathtaking. I just learned that next year, I am going to go see them on a weekday around 5:30 in the morning.

Can you see the frustration?  I think the words that came out of his mouth were, "I can't believe you dragged me here in this crowd of people to see a bunch of trees."




A few weeks back I made a quick trip up to Boston to visit some clients. It was my first time there and I fell head over heels in love with this city.  If I had a few extra million dollars, I would buy an apartment right off Newbury Street and spend as much time as possible in this extraordinary city. A girl can dream, right?!

Here are just a few pictures that I snapped.  My meetings ended a bit early and my flight didn't take off until later that evening.  So, what do you do when you only have a few hours of free time to see as much of a city as possible?  Well... you hop on a double decker tour bus of course!  This was my first time doing that and I am sold.  The bus took me all over Boston, and Cambridge as well.  I hopped off and walked around the Harvard campus, which was such an idyllic little town.

Here are a few pictures and cell phone snaps that cover most of my Boston trip.  My time there was way too short and I hope to go back many more times in years to come!


Now, let's get to the good stuff... food!  Here are a few places that I ate and what I had.

+  No. 9 Park
This restaurant was on the fancier end, but it was crazy good.  Since cooking is my thing, I love restaurants that wow me with technique and have me wondering, "How the hell did they make this?!?!".   This is one of those places.

I was a single diner and sat at the bar by myself.  Most restaurants will send over something extra for us single diners (they feel bad for us, lol) and No. 9 Park made me feel wonderfully welcome.  In this instance, they sent over a small sashimi appetizer which was delightful. For my main course, I had the chicken.  This is not your normal piece of chicken.  It was perfectly tender with the crispiest skin ever.  Served over wild mushrooms, topped with a castelvetrano olive relish, along with a side of creamy polenta and poached egg, this was one of the best meals I've had in a long time.

I passed on dessert, but they still gave me a tiny trio of miniature confections.

Chicken from No. 9 Park

Stoddard's Food and Ale
It is so fun when I am traveling and find out that a good friend is also in the same city.  To my surprise, a good friend of ours from Florida was also in Boston as well!  We decided to meet a Stoddard's Food and Ale since it was conveniently located in between our hotels.

This place is really charming and featured a huge list of unique beers and gastropub-esque food.  Plus, I was finally able to try my first Scotch Egg!  A Scotch Egg is a soft boiled egg, wrapped in a thin layer of sausage, breaded, then fried to a crisp and served with a side of mustard.  It was everything I hoped it would be!  

I then finished out the meal with some chicken pot pie and you want to know what they served as a garnish on top?  Fried. Chicken. Skin.  I kid you not.  Sorry to you vegetarians out there, but it was awesome.

The infamous Scotch Egg
Teeters and I; Good friends and good times!  
LOVED this mural!
Harvard campus
That's me... on my tour bus :) 

Legal Sea Foods
For lunch, I took some clients out to Legal Sea Foods.  Their office was right around the corned and it was their recommendation.... and what a great one it was!  The inside was very stylishly designed and the food & service were great!

I had the Korean Rice Bowl, which was filled with sauteed shitake mushrooms, carrots, seaweed cucumbers, kimchi, tuna, and an egg yolk.  I want to try to recreate this dish because it was crazy good!


Korean Rice Bowl at Legal Sea Foods
And here is my last shot.  Boston, you have my heart!  


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pork Belly Steam Buns






I have always thought that Asian steam buns were like this mystical food.  These prefect little white pillow-like-buns are my favorite!  Throw in some crispy pork belly with a killer sauce and you will be amazed at how unbelievably good these little babies are.

In fact, they were so good that I am almost compelled to start my own Asian food truck as a side job and only serve pork belly steam buns.  Just kidding (sort of), but I just want to show you how legit  this recipe is.

I am here to tell you that you too can make pork belly buns at home!  I hope I didn't scare you away with all of the steps. Here is my advice for a timeline on how to prepare each component:

- Cook the pork belly in the oven and refrigerate overnight
- The next day, make the dough.
- While the dough is resting, make the sauce, prep the aromatics, cut up the pork, make dressing and    cut up veggies for slaw
- Cook the pork and let rest
- Make the slaw
- Roll out the buns and steam them
- Finish the pork in the pan with aromatics and sauce

It is quite the process, but I assure you that it is TOTALLY worth it!  




































Pork Belly
2 pounds slab pork belly
salt + pepper

Preheat over to 275 degrees.  Liberally season all sides of the pork belly with salt and pepper.  Place skin side up on 2 sheets of foil and double wrap that belly nice and tight.

Cook in oven for 2.5 hours and remove to let cool.  Once cooled, place in the refrigerator and let it sit for at least 3 hours, but better over night.

Remove from the fridge and slice into bite sized pieces.  Preheat a pan over medium heat and cook a single layer of pork, in batches, until each side is brown in crispy.  The pork has a lot of fat, so be sure to use a splatter screen  because that sh*$ will POP!  Cooking it in a single later helps because you can monitor it and make sure both sides brown.  No one likes chewy, fatty pork!  Drain some of the pork fat if it begins to cover the pork.

Once all of the pork has been browned, remove from pan and place on a paper towel lined plate.  Let cool and reserve for later. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of fat from pan and set aside.

To finish the pork, heat up the fat and browned bits over medium low heat.  Add the scallions, garlic and ginger and cook for 2-4 minutes until slightly softened.  Add pork belly to heat it up again and get crispy.  Add sauce and cook for another 3 minutes until pork is coated and sauce has slightly thickened.

Serve pork in steam buns, top with slaw and stuff you face with the most delicious pork belly steam buns ever!  

Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chili garlic paste
2 teaspoons shaoxing wine
2 teaspoons mirin
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
and
1/4 cup chopped scallion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl (excluding the scallion, garlic & ginger) and set aside.  Prepare the scallion, garlic and ginger by chopping and mincing.  Set aside.  

Dressing + Slaw
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
dash of toasted sesame oil
heave pinch of each salt and black pepper

2 cups thinly shredded green cabbage
1/4 cup julienned carrots
3 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together and season with salt & pepper to taste.  Slice up slaw ingredients.  30 minutes prior to serving the pork buns, add dressing to slaw and place in fridge to marinate.

Steam Buns
(makes 16 steam buns)
1 1/2 cup bột bánh bao flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
dash of toasted sesame oil
juice from one lemon wedge
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white vinegar (for steaming water)

In a measuring cup, mix together sugar, milk sesame oil, lemon juice and salt.  Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and form a well.  Pour in the wet ingredients and slowly pull flour into the well to form a shaggy dough.  Once flour has been incorporated, used your hands and begin to knead.  

Depending on how wet/dry dough is, add a bit more flour or a little water.  Once all flour pulls away from the side of the bowl and an elastic ball is formed, continue to knead for 5 minutes.  Cover dough with damp towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 30 minutes to an hour.  

The dough will not rise like yeast dough and you will only see a slight difference.  Once dough has set, form a ball and turn out onto floured surface.  Slice dough like a pie into 8 slices, then cut each of those slices in half, to make 16 small wedges.  

Roll each wedge into a ball and cover with towel.  One piece at  a time, roll the balls into little oval shaped discs, keeping the surface lightly floured so the dough does not stick.  Fold the discs in half and place each one on a small piece of parchment, with another piece in between the fold, so buns can easily open.  

Time to steam!  I just used a deep pan with a flat dish in the bottom topped with a plate.  Fill the pan 1/3 of the way with water and add vinegar. This helps the buns stay white.  Place the dough buns and parchment on the plate and cover, with the heat on medium low.  Steam for about 7-10 minutes.  Remove buns from pan and continue to cook the rest of them.  

When ready to serve, you can either steam on plate again for 1 minute or microwave them for 15 seconds on a plate covered with plastic wrap.  





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