~ Totally Undeserving of the James Beard Award

~ Completely Undeserving of the James Beard Award ~

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bahn Mi Up...

To me, the Vietnamese sandwich "Bahn Mi" is addictive...and may just be the perfect sandwich, combining a selection of flavorful, marinated meat, savory and crisp vegetables, herbs, a bit of spice...all on a warm, light, crunchy roll.

One day at work, a co-worker offered to bring one back for me at lunch. "A ban what", I asked. Here it was, $2.25 later, all wrapped up in butcher paper, slightly warm. "Hmmm...how good could this be?"
After that day, I was hooked. In fact, the day I was writing this post, I was going to make some homemade spaghetti noodles and sauce...I couldn't...I had to have another bahn mi.

Never had one you say? You, my friend are missing something great...found at Vietnamese restaurants and delis for like $2 to $3...which makes it even better!

There are strong opinions on who makes the best, which deli in which city makes the best, which mix of ingredients are best...on and on.

The New York Times did a piece on them as did the Seattle Times...and there is a great blog dedicated  to them...recipe sites have articles related to them...and Anthony Bourdain swung into Vietnam for one.

At home when throwing around ideas on what to have for dinner, I usually get a SURE! if I suggest it.

A bit of history...(according to Wikipedia): The sandwich is a product of French colonialism in Indochina, combining ingredients from the French (baguettes, pâté and mayonnaise) with native Vietnamese ingredients, such as cilantro, hot peppers, and pickled carrots.

Let's go through each highlighted item, shall we? It is a relatively simple sandwich of 3 major sections:

As with any quality sandwich, the bread is key. You could get the best cuts of meats, cheeses, condiments and if you put it on Wonder Bread...well, that would just be silly. Your bread selection can easily make or break a sandwich.

The roll for a bahn mi is a baguette, preferably made by a Vietnamese bakery if there is one around (good luck). The authentic rolls are many times made to include rice flour which some say aids to the airiness of the interior and the crispyness of the crust. I have had good success with (believe it or not) a Safeway baguette. What you want is a baguette crispy to the point that shards of bread flake all over when you bite into it.

There is little argument on what to use as the vegetable fillings:
1)sliced or julienned cucumbers
3)thinly sliced peppers such as jalapeño
4)"Do Chua" which are julienned and pickled daikon radishes and carrots.

This where there can be a wide range of choices, pork, beef, chicken, no-meat, meatballs, pork belly on and on. All normally sliced thin.

Including the various meat choices, there are a multitude of combinations:

Chả Lụa (Pork Roll)...Giò Thú (Headcheese)...Gà Nướng (Grilled Chicken)...Cá Mòi (Sardines)...Thịt Bò Nướng (Grilled/Bar-B-Que Beef)...Paté...Trưng Chien (Fried Egg)...Chay (Vegetarian)

I think it's the little things that really push this sandwich to a next level. The right bread, how your meat was marinated and quality fillings.

For the marinade I used a combination of typical Asian flavors including lemongrass.

Lemongrass either comes pre-cut in those little hanging plastic boxes found with other fresh herbs, or a 2 foot piece in bulk as above

To use lemongrass, you only want the white portion

Then, depending on what you are doing with it slice away. It is very tough so a heavy knife is essential. For my marinade, I wanted it minced. I sliced it lengthways into strips, then the other direction.

Soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, pepper, garlic, minced red onion and sesame oil...plus the lemongrass for my marinade.

The "do chua" as I mentioned is pickled carrots and daikon radish. A daikon radish looks like a huge white carrot, like a foot long. And here's a little known tip...you don't always have to buy the entire piece of produce in the store. If you only want a half of head of cabbage, the produce dude will cut a head in half for you...same with the daikon, just ask them to cut off a piece. The pickling solution is simply water, vinegar, sugar and salt. The link at the bottom will give you definitive portions.

Here I have the ingredients, the baguette, cilantro, jalapeño, sliced cucumber, mayo and a jar of pickled carrots and daikon.

 Got my meat marinated and ready for the grill. For this version I used a pork shoulder blade steak. I think grilling the meat (as opposed to stove top cooking) also adds and extra something to the whole sandwich. As you see I will be using a grill basket as the meat is sliced quite thin.

 I was too lazy to fire up some briquettes, so I just flipped the Traeger on high...

 ...and assembled the sandwiches. I warmed the bread a bit in the oven. Just spread the mayo, add the meat, pile on the veggies.

Way good...it really is...make one...find one at a local Vietnamese deli..AND EAT ONE!

For more info, I highly suggest the website "Battle of the Bahn Mi"...it has a large amount of info for details I did not cover here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

You Say Tomato...I Say Tomato...

(and if you're Dan Quayle, you say "tomatoe")

Just  a quick post on our solution to a good problem...

(but do "good problems" need a solution at all?)

...anyway, tomatoes.

Our cherry tomato plant was producing faster than we could use them up, so I thought to make something out of them.

You little tiny tomatoes! Why don't you grow up and be something!?

Salsa?...nah, salsa is cheap to buy....

Marinara sauce?...nope, not enough tomatoes...

Sun Dried Tomatoes! They are like $4 - $5 for a small jar, baby!

So I gave them a quick rinse and sliced them in half...

...placed them on a foil lined sheet tray, with some olive oil, minced garlic (not to make "garlic flavored sun dried tomatoes", but just to add some flavor)..a few grinds of pepper...

...added a few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary...

...popped them in a low, low oven for a few hours. I checked on them every half hour or so, the length of time will be determined by the thickness of the toms, oven temp, etc.

...you want them leathery...and, well...dried out. I didn't add any salt as I thought that would draw too much water out.

...scooped them up and put them in a jar for the fridge. I didn't scrape up the garlic bits and herbs specifcally, but if they came along willingly I let them...added more olive oil to the jar

Ready for my pizza and pasta!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hey Kid!...Pull This and See What Happens!...




zzzzzzzz...ZZZZZZ...zzzzz...(wake up....hey...wake up!...WAKE UP!!!)


...must get up at 6...must get pork out...must rub spice mix on pork...

Okay, ladies and germs...you know time it is (beside 6:00 AM)?

That's Right!...

It's BBQ PORK TIME!!!!!!

I thought it is well past my time to do some pulled pork...never really attempted one, full on, as close to "real" as I could...

so, I bought about a 7 pound piece of pork shoulder, bone in (also called "pork butt", but it is a part of the shoulder...ham is from the back leg...you will also see "pork blade steak or roast"...same thing just cut down). I wanted it "bone-in" (with a bone) because many believe it offers additional flavor and is also one of the best tools to tell if it's done...as you will find out later...

I had the rub ready to go. A mix of the usual suspects, all in powder form...brown & white sugar, cumin, chili, onion, garlic, paprika, salt, black pepper, dried mustard, cayenne and some finely minced fresh rosemary.

I got it well coated on all sides and let set for an hour in hopes it will come up to room temp...otherwise your smoker temp will be reduced by this cold clod of meat...

...later in that same series of downs...


...coffee's on and Mickey sez it's 7 AM...

(and a big shout-out "thank you" to the Skyforest Reeds for the mug some years ago from their rare visit here)...

...time to get my smoke on...reading other world-wide-web-information-highway sites, it seemed to me the consensus was about 1-1/2 hours per pound...7 pounds makes it 10-1/2 hours, add a little wiggle room, time for it to rest when done (cuz we always let meat rest before hacking into it, don't we kids?)...reverse engineer it from a dinner time of 7 PM...

...I'll throw it on a 7 AM, I can always keep it warm and/or add heated sauces to warm it when serving...

...a bit past 7 AM...meat temp at 47 degrees (hardly came up at all during that last hour)...

...cherry wood pellets are in (I wanted to use pecan, as some swear by it for pork but the store was out)...butt on, fat cap side up (so it melts down through the meat) temp set at 225º...now what?...go back to bed, fool...

An hour later I checked in on it...temp "reads" 226º...right on...assuming the digital read out is 100% accurate...

...outside air temp is a balmy 45º...Hmmm, will this low temp (thankfully no wind) alter the cooking?...

...another hour or so...set still at 225º...but the read out shows 269º!...Hmmm...turn it down to 180º?...work on an average?...assume it will go up and down all day?...let's leave it and see...

...'bout high noon...temp reads 149º...sure came up fast in 5 hours...100º...

...an hour later...popped up another 10º...

...about 2 hours later...another 10º...


An hour later it dropped 2 degrees! What the F$#% is going on?!?!?

Piece of crap wireless thermometer gizmo thing...I always wondered if the thing really worked.

Okay, okay...don't panic...it's...it's the...the STALL!...wait, this didn't stall, it went backwards...crap! 
Now what? Calm down...eliminate any possible errors...think through the problem...check and verify.

Get your "Insta-Read" out Reed...that ever present pocket thermometer every chef has at the ready in their little sleeve pocket on their chef coat (except mine is in the drawer under the Kitchenaid).

HA! 190º..Done!...........or is it?


Get that other thermometer and try that...Hmmm....170º.  

166º...190º...170º...two out of three are about 170º...throw out the abnormal spike?
Maybe it's correct and the other two are off?

Gotta go with your gut...it's the 3rd quarter, you're down 20 degrees...you gotta believe you can come back in the 4th. So punt.

It's only 4 o-clock...shouldn't be ready yet....it's only been 9 hours...

1-1/2 hours before it "should" be ready and 20º too low...leave it...get a glass of wine...walk away and leave it.

In the interim, I was asked to make some Jalapeño Poppers...

There 100's of ways to make these...the one I made up usually uses Fritos...didn't have any so I used Goldfish crackers. I use it as a filler and it adds flavor. That's why I like the Fritos cuz of the intense corn flavor to standup against everything else going in.

About equal parts Fritos (crackers) and sharp cheddar cheese, again sharp...medium would just get lost...a heaping scoop or two of softened cream cheese...some chili and garlic powder...and mash the whole mess up into a thick paste...toss in anything else you find laying around...

Git yer peppers out...slice about half way down near the stem, straight down, then from the other end, slice about the top 1/3 off back to your first cut...so you just cut off the top. I do it this way instead of slicing off the stem end top (as many do) because I don't have one of them thar fancy holder dealies to hold it upright when cooking.

Find a small spoon and scrape our as much or as little as you want of the seeds and white membranes (the heat factory).


Moosh some of the mash into the cavity...sprinkle on some smoked paprika...

Place on cooling rack...I would prefer doing this on the charcoal grill...adds a nice char on them, but I aint got it lit today...I tried it on the Traeger once...not high enough heat...

Throw it in the oven at exactly "whatever" degrees...let it get all hot and gooey...

Plate it up...sprinkle with cilantro...grab 2 or 3 for you...THEN call out "appetizers!"...grab your glass of wine an run back out to the smoker.

Also for dinner, we'll have corn on the cob. I don't boil mine...rinse them off and wash trim the loose husks, any hangy offs, any silk that is hanging out, maybe trim both ends and soak for 20 or more minutes.

Like the poppers, these work great on the grill, but the oven works fine as a substitute. Toss them right on the wire rack for about 15-20 minutes at 350º. The water helps steam them...they do turn out great this way...but kinda hot when de-husking them.

The other Mickey says it's 7:00 PM...it's been in for 12 hours and it hit 190º...."magic time!"

Technically, "pork" is done at 170º, but this big clod of meat and fat and connective tissues and who know what else needs some extra time...for that fat and tissue to melt and the whole thing become wonderfully tender.


 Sweet..and a nice, clean bone (lower right). I understand if you get a clean bone out then it's definitely done...this 7 pounder made enough for maybe 16 sandwiches, I served 4 that night and divided the rest into thirds in freezer bags and stored them away in the deep freeze.

...good bark (the crusty outer layer, it's not burnt)...a nice smoke ring (the pink where the smoke infiltrated...MMMmmmm...

Oh, ya...I didn't add any sauce...let the folks customize it...gotta have slaw with BBQ...for mine I LOVE a "finishing sauce" a guy at my work gave me (below)...it was his grandpas who lived in the Carolinas...it fits great with the smoke and slaw...tangy, spicy, good...

...come to papa!...

The reviews were good...sorta like "oh, my gawd"...and "wow"...something along those lines, hard to tell with their mouths full.

Carolina Style "Finishing Sauce"

2 C Ketchup
3 C White Vinegar

Add 1 Tablespoon each of:
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Red Pepper Flakes
Black Pepper
Cayenne Powder

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so.

Classic Slaw Dressing

1/2 C Mayo
2 Tbl Milk
2 Tbl Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 tsp sugar

1/2 to 1 Tbl Celery Seed (NOT! celery salt, the salt will bring our the water in the cabbage and water the whole mess down)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hey!...Do You Know How To Make a Fruit Cordial?...

...says Frank.

Dean replies: "Be nice to him, I guess".

And now ladies and gentlemen, the Sands Hotel proudly presents…The star of our show!…
Direct from the bar!…Dean Martin!

DATELINE: Copa Room, Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada - 1960.

Back in the 60's, we were not as politically correct as we are today. This and other off-color, racist, bigoted statements were interwoven within the Rat Pack's (Frank hated that term) stage show at The Sands Hotel's "Copa Room" (imploded in 1996, replaced by the Venetian hotel)...and a good time was had by all.

Frank: "Keep smiling Sammy so the folks know where you are!"

There are a few food references to their stage show such as their snack cart they wheel out which Dean "mixes himself another salad", most likely consisting of bourbon and ice. 

However, this snack cart which includes likes of many food related items, such as corn and rye (whiskey & bourbon), potatoes (vodka), sugarcane (rum), grapes (vermouth & cognac)...and undoubtedly olives, small pickled onions, lemons and limes.

I tell you daddy-O, those were swingin' times. For a few short weeks, Frank, Dean, Sammy, Joey (Bishop) and Peter (Lawford) filmed the Original "Oceans 11" film by day...and at night they would storm the stage at the Sands "Copa Room".  It was the hottest ticket in town.

Getting tickets for the show, you either need to be the Hollywood "A" list or on Jack Entratter's (the Copa Room' producer) list. And the Hollywood "A" list did show. Lucy (Ball), (Gregory) Peck, Buddy (Rich), Sammy (Cahn), Cary (Grant)....on and on. 

Dean jokes: "I like the one where the teacher says, Tommy? You have fairy godmother? Tommy says, No, but we have an uncle we keep a close eye on"

The Sands had a dining room, actually more of coffee shop...

I love the olive green chairs...so modern!

Ox Tongue Sandwich anyone?...only $1.00!

Back at the Copa Room...let's see what they offer on their wine list...

Oooh...a lovely Almaden Grenache Rose'!...$4.50 a bottle, baby!...or maybe the ever popular Liebfraumilch Blue Nun...heck, too hard to decide when they also offer Mateus!

The famed Copa Room, all set and ready to party.

Hmm...what to have for dinner...so many choices...

Sorry for the blurry menu. For appetizers we could choose "Chopped Chicken Livers" or their "Famous Pickled Herring".

For our entree...there is something called "Minced Tenderloin of Beef Mexicain" (sounds like meatloaf with peppers) for $7.00...and there is "Broiled Tasmanian Lobster Tail" (Tasmanian? They must ship them in from the Acme Lobster Company) for $7.25

To finish we can get "Rainbow Sherbet" for 40¢..."Apple Pie" for 50¢...or go all out with the "Ice Cream Roll with Brandied Cherries" for a whopping 60¢.

There's nothing like it now...no show I know of brings this caliber of multi-talented performers...at the top of their game...on one one stage.

Let's sit back watch the show!...