Saturday, December 5, 2020

Mirchi Qorma

This post is part of my Beyond Borders project.  This project focuses on the history, culture and cuisine of peoples who lack their own country or who are minorities in countries.  Each post discusses an aspect of those peoples, as well as a recipe from their cuisine. This is the first post is about the Kashmiri people.

Modern history defines Kashmir in a broad stroke. That stroke illustrates a land divided amongst three separate powers. There is Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, which is under the control of Pakistan. As that stroke moves east, there is Jammu and Kashmir, along with Ladakh, both of which are controlled by India. The stroke finishes with Aksai Chin and the Trans-Kakoram Tract, which are under the control of China (and, which are administratively part of Xinjiang and/or Tibet). 

Looking back into the past, when one spoke of Kashmir, they were more than likely talking about the Kashmir Valley.  It is a region bookended by the Pir Panjal range to the southwest and the Himalaya Mountains to the northeast. It is also the historic home to the Kashmiri people.  They are the focus of this blog post. 

The Kashmiri people are a Dardic ethnic group, a group of Indo-Aryan peoples who live in northeastern Pakistan, eastern Afghanistan and Kashmir. It is a region that has seen conquerors come and go, including the Mughals, who ruled the region for about 200 years between the 1580s and the 1750s, the Afghanis, who ruled for a few decades; and the Sikhs, who ruled for about twenty years until they were supplanted by the Dogra Regime, who controlled the area until 1947. It was the Dogra Regime that perhaps best underscored the problem: a Hindu monarchy that exploited the masses of Muslim Kashmiri people.  As it was once described

The poverty of the Muslim masses is appalling. Dressed in rags and barefoot, a Muslim peasant presents the appearance of a starved beggar.... Most are landless laborers, working as serfs for absentee landlords.

This description is particularly jarring, especially given Kashmiri cuisine.  Dishes primarily feature rice, usually served with a protein, such as lamb or mutton. These include, by way of example, Machwangen Kormeh (meat cooked with spices and chilies, including Kashmiri chiles) and Yakhni (a yogurt-based mutton gravy flavored with bay leaves, cloves and cardamom). Indeed, meat features prominently in these dishes, which is something that naturally appeals to a die-hard carnivore like myself. 

A Wazwan Feast (from Auralcrave)

This dish has its place in Kashimiri cuisine. It is one of about 30 lamb dishes that are part of a 36-dish Kashmiri feast known as the wazwan. (In the Kashmiri language, waz means "cook" or cooking, while wan means "shop.") The feast celebrates the legacy of the 15th century Turko-Mongol conquerer Timur.  The conqueror brought with him 1,700 skilled workers.  Those workers included cooks, who would butcher the lambs for the dishes.  The cooks worked under the supervision of a wouste waze, who is the master chef.  As the dishes are completed, they are brought out to the guests, who sit at tables of four with a traem (a large bronze plate) on the middle of the table. The guests share the dishes as they are placed om the traem until the last dish - gushtaba (meatballs cooked in a spicy gravy - is served. The meatball recipe signifies the end of the feast. 

This recipe for Mirchi Qorma comes from Ahdoo's Hotel, which is located in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu-Kashmir.  A qorma is the Urdic word "to braise." In this case, it is the braising of pieces of lamb in a fiery chile sauce made from Kashmiri chiles.  The dish itself illustrates the influence of the past, as a qorma is a Mughal dish, typically made in the kitchens for the court of the rulers. The cooks first seared the lamb over high heat, typically with ghee, adding liquid to create the gravy or curry in which the meat continues to cook. This recipe basically follows that historical approach. The end product is one of the best curries that I have had in a very long time. 

MIRCHI QORMA

Recipe from Saveur

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 6 dried Kashmiri chiles or pasilla chiles, stemmed
  • 2 small red Thai chiles or 1 red jalapeno, stemmed 
  • 2 pounds lamb shoulder
  • 1 tablespoons black pepper corns
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspooon kala jeera (black cumin seeds
  • 10 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
  • 2 Indian (or regular) bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup tamarind paste
  • 3 tablespoons dried mint
  • 1 tablespoon red chile powder, such as cayenne
  • Kosher salt, to taste.

Directions:

1.  Cook the lamb.  Heat a six quart saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook dried chiles until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes.  Transfer to a food processor, add fresh chiles and 1 cup of water.  Puree until smooth and return to pan.  Add lamb, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon and 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cook, covered, until lamb is very tender, about one hour.  Transfer the lamb mixture to a bowl. 

2.  Finish the dish. Wipe the pan clean; heat oil over medium high.  Cook cumin seeds, garlic and bay leaves until seeds pop, about 1-2 minutes.  Add reserve lamb mixture, the tamarind paste, 1 teaspoon of mint, the chile powder and salt. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Cook until thickened, about 1 hour.  Garnish with remaining mint. 

ENJOY!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Pan-Fried Whole Trout

Heritage is sometimes an interesting subject, especially for me.  One side of my family comes from Italy.  Anyone who peruses this blog, especially in its early days, would see the Italian influences in what I cook. This influence draws heavily from my childhood, as I can remember my grandparents making homemade pasta dinners.  When I say homemade, I mean basically everything - the sauce, the sausage, the meatballs, and even the pasta were all made by their hands.  My culinary vacation through Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany further fueled my Italian-inspired cooking.

The other side of my family comes from the Czech Republic or, as it may be commonly referred to  today, Czechia. To be sure, that side of the family had more roots in the United States.  The memories of their cooking are not as strong (which is something that makes me sad).  Unlike my culinary vacation in Italy, I studied abroad in Prague, spending more than three months living and eating there. To be sure, that was during my college days, when the desire to cook was not strong. I ate a lot of Czech food, but I also had my fair share McDonalds or Little Ceasar's (I was suprised to find them there and it was a connection to home). 

Needless to say, the Czech influences are not as present on this blog. In an effort to learn more about those dishes, I bought The Best of Czech Cooking. I perused the book and came across some fish recipes. There are over fifty different species of freshwater fish swimming in the rivers througout central Europe.  In Czech waters, carp reigns as king. There are other fish, such as perch, sander (walleye), catfish and, of course, trout. 

Not only can trout be found in the rivers, but it is also part of an acquaculture industry in the Czech Republic. That industry goes back as far as the 13th or 14th century, althought it grew much quicker in the 16th century.  Landowners began to build ponds to raise fish. They focused on carp first, but have branched out to other species, like trout.  Over time, the industry became quite large.  Indeed, the Cezch Republic is one of the largest producers of fish in the European Union.  However, the Czech people have one of the lowest rates of fish consumption in the European Union. 

Still, there are fish dishes in Czech cuisine, as evidenced by my cookbook.  I chose one of those dishes: pan-fried trout. This is a very simple dish, requiring only five ingredients. Those five ingredients -- fish, flour, lemon, parsley and butter -- come together to make a simple, yet very tasty dish. Indeed, given how easy it is to make this dish, it is surprising that Czechs don't eat more fish. 



PAN-FRIED TROUT
Recipe from The Best of Czech Cooking, pg. 26
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 small trout (1 pound each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon

Directions:
1.  Prepare the fish.  Clean and gut the fish if it has not already been prepared.  Wash the fish in cold water and then dry it with paper towels.  Season the trout with salt and pepper and cover with flour.

2.  Fry the fish.  Melt 3 tablespoons of butter on medium high heat in a large frying pan.  When the butter has melted and is quite hot, shake off the excess flour from the trout and put them into the pan.  Fry them until lightly golden on one side, 4 or 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to make sure the fish does not stick.  Turn the trout over, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, and fry until golden on the other side.  Add the parsley and juice from half of the lemon.  Cook for another few seconds.  Serve with additional parsley and lemon wedges.

ENJOY!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Uyghur Polo

This post is part of my Beyond Borders project.  This project focuses on the hisory, culture and cuisine of peoples who lack their own country or who are minorities in countries. This is the second post about the Uyghur people. 

Nadan qazangha qaraydu, tadan ochaqqa (qaraydu).

The words are spoken by Uyghurs, with a language that perhaps most closely resembles Uzbek, but also has similarities to Kazakh and Kyrgyz.  When translated, it reveals a proverb: "[t]he simple man looks at the serving dish, the cunning man at the oven."  It is related to the proverb of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who wrote "[g]ive a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

The similarity of a proverb cannot obscure the harsh reality that unfolds today in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. Since 2017, the Communist Chinese government has detained over one million Uyghurs in re-education camps.  The "re-education" appears to nothing more than the forced stripping of the Uyghurs of what makes them who they are, that is, their cultural identity.  Detainees are forced to declare their loyalty to the Communist government, learn Mandarin and study communist propaganda. They are also compelled to denounce their moderate form of Sunni Islam and forgo speaking their own Turkic langauge. The Chinese authorities use torture to increase the effectiveness of the reeducation program.

The Chinese government claims that these camps are a countermeasure against religious extremism and terrorism. Such claims are nothing more than a thin veil to hide the eradication of the Ugyhur identity.  As the Council of Foreign Relations has found

"Many aspects of Muslim life have been erased, journalists reporting from Xinjiang have found. Communist Party members have been recruited since 2014 to stay in Uighur homes and report any perceived 'extremist' behaviors, including fasting during Ramadan. Officials have destroyed mosques, claiming the buildings were shoddily constructed and unsafe for worshippers.  Uighur and other minority women have reported forced sterilizations and intrauterine device insertions, and official shave threatened to detain anyone who has too many children.  Uighur parents are banned from giving their babies certain names, including Mohammed and Medina. Halal food, which is prepared according to Islamic law, has become harder to find in Urumqi [the provincial capital] as the local government has launched a campaign against it."

As the foregoing suggets, the Chinese goverment's campaign to strip the Uyghurs of their separate identity even extends to their cuisine. 

That cuisine has been described as "very rich, very different." Uyghur cuisine features various proteins (mutton, beef, camel [bactrian], chicken and goose), along with other ingredients such as carrots, onions, peppers, eggplant and various fruits.  These proteins and ingredients are featured in dishes that are emblematic of the cuisine, such as kebabs and laghman (a noodle dish).  Many of these dishes draw influences from surrounding cultures in Central Asia.  These influences can traced to the food and dishes of the Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. 

To be sure, there are Chinese influences in Uyghur cuisine (for obvious reasons), but the Central Asian influences are unmistakeble.  This most obvious example lies with the "King" of the Ugyhur table ... Polo.  It is the Uyghur version of the Central Asian plov.  While they vary from country to country (and from region to region within a country), a plov is a rice dish that typically includes carrots and meat.  

As one would expect with "royalty," there are certain traditions that have to observed.  For instance, there are the ingredients.  A traditional polo consists of a handful of ingredients: rice, lamb, carrots, onions and oil, along with salt, sugar and cumin to provide flavor. (There are other versions of polo that include other ingredients, such as raisins, apricots or chickpeas.) There is also the preparation. The carrots must be cut in a certain way.  The onion must be sliced in a certain way. The actual steps of cooking the dish must be followed in a certain way.  Careful attention must be given to the cooking process, tasting the dish along the way to ensure not only that it tastes right, but that there is a strong taste. 

Suprisingly (or not), there are few recipes for Uyghur Polo on the Internet.  I found a video on YouTube that described the process, which I have tried my best to translate into the recipe found below. The recipe produced a dish that resembles many of the pictures of Uyghur polo online (although my carrot-cutting and onion-slicing may be met with some disdain by Ugyhur cooks and chefs).  The resulting dish was also very delicious, although I would probably have added a little more cumin to further "strengthen" the taste. 


UYGHUR POLO

Recipe adapted from Dolan Chick

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds lamb, cut into cubes
  • 1pound of carrots, cut into sticks
  • 1 red or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablesppon cumin seed
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
  • 2 cups long grain rice
Directions:

1. Brown the lamb.   Heat the oil in a deep pan on high heat.  Add the lamb and brown on all sides, for about four to five minutes. Add the onion, cumin and salt.  Cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots to the pan. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring to mix the ingredients together and cover the carrots with the oil. 

2. Add the rice. Add enough water to cover the lamb, carrots and onions, as well as cook the rice, about 4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil.  Add the rice evenly in the pan.  Top with the raisins.  Lower the heat to low so that it is a simmer.  Cover and cook until the rice has absorbed the liquid, about 30 minutes.  Remove the cover and mix all of the ingredients and shred the lamb. 

3. Finish the dish. Spoon the rice with the carrots, lamb, onion and raisins into bowls. Serve immediate.  Serve with flatbread, yoghurt or a salad. 

ENJOY!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Goat Curry in the Punjabi Style

Its name in Sanskrit is Panchanada, the "Land of Five Rivers." After a wave of Muslim conquests, the conquerors used the Persian name, Panjab.  That land has a long history, one that dates all the way back to 2600 BCE, with the emergence of the Indus Valley Civilization.  That civilization was known for its urban planning, baked brick houses, drainage systems, water supply systems and more. They even had a writing system that has still not been deciphered as of this date. 

Over time, the area that would become known as the Punjab was a crossroads of various conquering empires.  Alexander the Great led the Greeks through the region, ultimately being turned back. Then there was a series of empires.  Then more foreign conquerers, including Arabs, Mughals, Sikhs, and, eventually, the British. 

While I could go into much more detail about the history of the Punjab region (which really does fascinate me), the most important part of this history is simple. Each invading army or culture brought something to the Punjab region.  Influences that worked their way into the culture of the people, as well as their cuisine. Indeed, the cuisine of the Punjab region can be best described as a mixture of Indian, Persian, Mughal and Afghan influences.

This mixture of influences naturally draws my attention to Punjabi cuisine.  The one thing that keeps my attention is the liberal use of spices in the dishes. Spices such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamoon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, mustard, red chile powder and turmuric. The more spices used in a dish correlates to a greater likelihood that I will prepare that dish.  This leaves me wondering why I have not cooked more Punjabi dishes.

However, it is not just the spices.  The Indus River, along with the other rivers (remember - Punjab means the land of five rivers), makes this region the breadbasket, especially for Pakistan, where most of the rivers are located. The principal crops are rice and wheat, but farmers also cultivate maize and lentils, along with garlic, ginger and onions (after all, one needs a base for the masalas).  There is also quite the dairy industry in the Punjab region, which serves as the foundation for the extensive use of ghee, clarified butter and cheese (paneer) in Punjabi dishes.  

But, for me at least, it almost always returns to the spices.  I had a lot of goat in the freeze and I needed a recipe.  I searched the Internet for a recipe, looking at recipes from South America, Africa, Europe and Asia.  Yet, it was a Punjabi goat curry recipe that won out over all others.  The reason is simple: the recipe called for bay leaves, cinnamon, chiles, cloves, coriander, cumin, garam masala, garlic, ginger, green cardamom and paprika.  

Yet, there was one problem with the recipe.  It was for a pressure cooker.  My beautiful Angel bought a pressure cooker; and, yes, I could have used it to make this dish.  However, I wanted to do it "old-school."  Just me, the goat, some spices, and a few pots and pans. That required some "translation" between pressure cooker instructions and traditional instructions. (I also tried to simplify the instructions in the process.) It also required a little flexibility in making the dish. Nevertheless, I think it worked out well.  I got the masala base right, and then built the curry so that the gravy was probably one of the best that I have ever made. 

For those who have followed my blog, you may remember the many goat dishes that I have made.  (Some of those dishes made their way onto my Around the World in 80 Dishes culinary challenges, as I made goat curries from both Guyana and Ghana.)  Yet, it is this dish that is probably my best work with this protein.  The success lies entirely with the masala and the gravy. I only wish that I had not used up the last of my goat with this dish. 


GOAT CURRY IN THE PUNJABI STYLE
Recipe adapted from Marigold Maison
Serves several

Ingredients:
5 pounds of goat pieces
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 green cardamom seeds, crushed
4-5 cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 pound of yellow onions, minced finely
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
3 tablespoons of chopped fresh garlic
2 tablespoons of fresh indian chiles
2 cups canned tomato sauce
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
2 teaspoons garam masala powder
2 teaspoons paprika powder
Cilantro 
8-10 cups water

Directions:
1. Prepare the goat.  Clean and wash the goat. Cut the the goat into bite sized pieces if it has not already been processed.  Sometimes, I use some lemon juice or lime juice to "rinse" the goat, as the juice is supposed to help with the smell and taste of the goat. 

2.  Brown the goat.  Heat oil in a pot over medium high heat.  Add the cumin seeds, cardamom and bay leaves.  Saute for 1 minute, stirring to prevent the spices from burning.  Add the finely minced onion.  Saute until the onion turns it begins to light brown. Add the ginger, garlic and chiles. Continue to cook this mixture, stirring to prevent burning, for about two to three minutes.  Add the goat meat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.  The goal is to brown the goat meat on all sides, as best as possible. 

3.  Prepare the curry.  Add the salt, paprika, turmeric, red chile powder and coriander powder. Stir well and then add the tomato sauce.  Stir to incorporate all of the ingredients.   Add 8 cups of water and, once again, stir well to ensure that all of the ingredients have been mixed together.  Increase the heat to high and bring the curry to a boil.  Once it begins to boil, reduce the hear to medium-low and continue to simmer for as long as it takes to get the goat tender and to reduce the liquid.  

4. Finish the dish.  Once the goat is tender and the liquid has been reduced enough, add some garam masala.  Stir the curry.  Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and serve immediately. 

ENJOY!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Santa Maria Tri-Tip

It has quite a while since I have posted anything on my Chef Bolek blog. I have to admit that I have been cooking less, even though I have been home more due to the coronavirus pandemic. Shopping habits have changed, eating habits have changed. Posting habits have changed. Yet, the chances that I have had to cook have presneted me with some opportunities to explore new recipes, culinary influences and the history of food. This post offers yet another glimpse into those opportunities. 

I have explored many different barbecue styles, from Eastern Carolina to Kansas City to Western Texas. Now I reach the other side of the country, with my introduction to Santa Maria style barbecue.

This style takes its name from where it first emerged, namely, the Santa Maria Valley. The valley is located in Santa Barbara County, in central California.  It also dates back to the mid-19th century, when local ranchers would hold feasts for their vaqueros (Mexican cowboys).  The style emerged with cooks stringing cuts of meat -- marinated with a rub of salt, pepper and garlic salt -- on skewers and cooking them over the coals of a red oak fire

Over time, the style evolved. The focus turned to one particular cut of meat: the tri-tip. The credit goes to a manager who worked at the Santa Maria Market.  Back in the 1950s, that manager had the idea of taking a little-used triangular cut of meat butcher, seasoning it (with salt, pepper and garlic salt), and roasting it on a rotisserie. That led to the Santa Maria style of barbecue that exists today. 

Where as most barbecue is low and slow, the Santa Maria style goes hot and fast. The true Santa Maria style requires the heart to come from red oak coals. The trees grow from the Mendocino County all the way down to the Mexican border and beyond. If you don't happen to have any red oak handy, regular oak wood will do. And, if you don't have any wood or charcoal, a gas grill will do. (It just won't be true Santa Maria barbecue.)

The rub is still the classic salt, black pepper and garlic salt; however, there are many "Santa Maria" style rubs that add other ingredients, such as ground ancho chile pepper (which adds some smokiness to the rub, a benefit if you are using a gas grill with no charcoal). Cayenne pepper, onion powder, oregano and other ingredients have also found their way into rubs.  Even a little sugar can be added.  I found a good recipe with all of these ingredients.  

Finally, the side dishes. If you want some ideas for sides to serve with the trip tip, the traditional side dish is pinquito beans, which are grown in the Santa Maria Valley. Other sides include salads, salsa fresca and garlic bread. 

SANTA MARIA TRI-TIP

Rub recipe from Alison Ashton 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Tri-tip, about 2 pounds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oriegano
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
Directions:
1. Marinate the meat. Combine the salt, black pepper, ancho chile pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, dried oregano and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly.  Apply a thin layer of olive oil on all sides of the tri-tip. Apply the marinade to all sides of the tri-tip, making sure that it adheres to the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the meat to marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight. 

2.  Grill the meat.  Heat a gas grill on high heat. After oiling the grates, place the tri-tip on the grill.  Allow the meat to cook for about 5 to 10 minutes per side, until the tri-tip reaches an internal temperature of about 135 degrees (between rare and medium rare). Remove from the grill, wrap in aluminum foil and allow the meat to rest for at least 15 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve immediately. 

ENJOY!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Oysters Rockefeller

A few years back, I was in New Orleans for work. After a long day, I joined some friends and colleagues for dinner. They had chosen the restaurant. It was, of course, the legendary Antoine's, deep in the heart of the French Quarter. Antoine's just happens to be the birthplace of the dish, Oysters Rockefeller.  

Antoine Alciatore opened Antoine's in 1840.  By 1850, Antoine had invented a dish called Escargot (Snails) Bourgigon. In 1899, Anotine passed the restaurant to his son, Jules.  As it turns out, that same year, there was a shortag eof escargot.  Jules decided to turn to the local  oysters from the nearby Gulf of Mexico.  He topped those oysters with a green mixture and bread crumbs.  It is difficult to say exactly what was in that mixture because the recipe is a closely guarded secret. Antoine's has never published or revealed anything about the recipe, except for a few hints of what is not in it.  For example, the green color of the mixture does not come from the use of spinach. That claim was confirmed when someone took some of the mixture to a lab for testing.  Sure enough, there was no spinach. Instead, there was parsley, celery, scallions or chives, capers and olive oil.  There was also most likely some alcohol, perhaps pernod. The mixture was so rich, that Jules called it Oyster Rockefeller, a nod to John Rockefeller, who was the richest person in America at the time.  Once it is ready, the dish is put under the broiler or baked until it begins to brown slightly and the oysters begin to curl around their edges. 

Of course, we ordered Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine's that night and, sure enough, it lived up to the hype.  The oysters were perfectedly cooked, and, the mixture was delicious.  I was determined to make it on my own.  It may take a few years, but it would happen.

Fast forward to 2020. It's been a helluva year. But, it was the year that I finally made Oysters Rockefeller.  I had ordered some very special oysters from the Chesapeake Bay, some Chincoteague Salts and Misty Points from Cherrystone Aqua Farms. I had decided to use an equal amount of each of the two types of oysters to make Oysters Rockefeller.  

As for the recipe, I found one online that followed what could be the original recipe, with its use of parsley, scallions, and celery.  The one thing it did not call for was the pernod, which was okay because I did not have any.  (The next time I make this dish I am going to buy some and try it in the recipe, to get closer to the authentic dish.)  From what I can remember of the original dish, my first attempt was a good effort, but not quite there.  It needs a little refinement, but, that comes with future efforts to make the dish.  Hopefully, it won't take me three years to make Oysters Rockefeller again.


OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER
Recipe adapted from Saveur
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 dozen oysters, shucked but kept in cup (bottom part)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 scallions, minced
2 ribs celery, minced
2 sprigs tarragon, stemmed and minced
1 bunch of parsley, stemmed and minced, plus sprigs to garnish
Kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs

Directions:
1. Prepare the oysters. Shuck oysters over a bowl to catch their liquor (you should have about 1/2 cup), discarding the flat top shells.  Loosen oysters from bottom shells with a knife.

2. Prepare the topping. Melt butter in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour, cook until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add oyster liquo, cook until thickened to a paste, about 2 minutes.  Stir in cayenne, scallions, celery, tarragon, parsley and salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to medium low; cook until soft, about 1 hour.  Transfer to a food processor, add bread crumbs and process into a smooth paste, about 2 minutes.  

3. Complete the dish. Heat broiler to high.  Place paste in a pasty bag fitted with a 1/2 inch fluted tip.  Pipe paste completely over oysters.  (If you don't have a pastry bag, use a spoon.)  Broil until paste begins to brown and oysters are just cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.  Garnish each dish with parsley sprigs, if desired. 

ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Blistered Shishito Peppers and White Onions

The history of the Shishito pepper goes back about five centuries.  In some respects, it is a tale that begins as the story of many peppers. That beginning is aboard a Portuguese caravel during the 16th century.

The 16th century represented perhaps the pinnacle of Portuguese "exploration." I used the word in quotes because the areas they explored -- such as the coasts of Africa, the subcontinent, and eastern Asia -- already existed with their own long histories and cultures. (I always try to be mindful of how history is told from a western perspective.) By the beginning of the 16th century, the Portuguese had "discovered" what is known today as Brazil.  By the mid 16th century, Portuguese explorers and traders had not only navigated around the Cape of Good Hope in Southern Africa, but they had made their way to what is modern day India, China and even Japan.  At least two Portuguese traders -- Antonio Mota and Francisco Zeimoto --  were the first to make their way to island of Tanagashima in 1543.  Those traders were the first Europeans to make contact with the Japanese and they did so by accident.  Their vessel had been blown off course by a typhoon and wrecked on the island. In the years that followed, the Portuguese established more formal contacts, especially focused on trade.  

As these Portguese vessels made their way around the world, they brought one very little tasty vegetable as an item for trade ... the pepper. The Portguese brought different peppers with them, including the malagueta pepper from Brazil and the padron pepper from Spain. The Portuguese brought the former pepper to Africa, where it has become the piri-piri (or peri-peri) pepper.  As for the latter pepper, the Portugutese most likely brought it to Japan, where it literally and figuratively took root. The relatively mild pepper came to be known as the Shishito pepper. The name "shishito" comes from the Japanese for lion (shishi) and pepper (togarashi).  Together, the word shishito is the Japanese Lion Head pepper.  

Fast forward to today, the shishito pepper seems to be making its way around the world much like an explorer. It seems to have made its way across the Pacific Ocean to restaurants across the United States. Chefs and cooks across this country have taken to the little pepper, blistering them and serving them as appetizers and tapas to hungry guests.

This recipe follows that trend, but with a slight nod back to the pepper's origin.  The blishito peppers are "blistered," that is sauteed until the skins begin to brown, with a sauce made from soy sauce, lemon juice, water and a little sugar.  The recipe was good and easy to make.  However, the next time I think I will try a different way to prepare these peppers.




BLISTERED SHISHITO PEPPERS AND WHITE ONIONS
Recipe adapted from CSA Cookbook, page 48
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of canola oil
2 cups of shishito peppers
1 white onion cut lengthwise into eighths
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:
1. Saute the peppers.  Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Swirl in the oil, then spread the peppers and onions across the pan with as little overlap as possible, pressing down on them lightly with a spatula.  Cook undisturbed until the bottoms are lightly blistered and browned, about 5 minutes.  Shake up the pan and continue cooking until the pepper are tender and the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2.  Make the sauce.  Combine the soy sauce, water, lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.  

3.  Finish the dish.  Transfer the peppers and onions to a serving dish and pour the sauce over them. Stir to coat evenly and serve warm.

ENJOY!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Monkfish with Ratatouille

Imagine a lazy predator who lies underwater covered in muck and mud.  When it gets hungry, it dangles a lure to attact small fish and crustaceans.  When those small prey get close enough, the predator opens its cavernous mouth to swallow the unsuspecting fish or shrimp.  

That lazy predator goes by many names: anglerfish, goosefish, frog fish, molligut, and sea devil.  Most people know it as the monkfish. 

For a very long time, the monkfish was considered a trash fish.  Fishermen who caught the fish often threw it back, because, at one point, it would only garner about twenty cents per pound. For those who kept the fish, they often got an unexpected treat. The meat of the monkfish -- which comes from its tail -- had a special consistency, one that resembled the texture of lobsters.  That special texture is how the fish got another nickname, the poor mans's lobster.  

That nickname has become a misnomer in recent years. A pound of monkfish goes for much more today than twenty cents per pound. If you were to go to a grocery store, or a seafood market, you would most likely find monkfish for anywhere between $8.99 to $18.99 per pound.  The poor'man's lobster is now a delicacy that graces the plates of fancy restaurants.  As it grew in popularity, the demand put stress on the monkfish populations.  That has led some countries, such as Norway, to place restrictions on the fishing of monkfish to ensure the stability of its population.   The United States also places restrictions on the commercial fishing of monkfish. 

I guess this dish is my attempt to create a fancy dish using monkfish.  The fish is baked in the oven, and served with a rater simply prepared ratatouille.  Perhaps this dish is a nod to French cuisine, whose chefs and cooks have prepared the fish in a varety of ways.  This simple preparation was very tasty and a great waty to enjoy the fish and get your daily requirement of vegetables.  


MONKFISH WITH RATATOUILLE
Recipe from Epicurious
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium-lrge zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
Tomato sauce (14 ounces)
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons drained capers (optional)

Directions:
1.  Roast the vegetables.  Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Toss eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper and onion with 2 teaspoons of oil in a bowl.  Add the thyem, season with salt and pepper and toss again.  Coat a shallow baking pan with cooking spray.  Arrange the vegetables on pan and roast until tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir in garlic and tomatoe sauce. Cover loosely with foil and roast for 10 minutes more.  Remove pan from oven.  Stir in chopped basil.

2.  Bake the fish.  Rub the fillets with the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Nestle the fish in the vegetables cover loosley with foil.  Bake until the fish is just cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Top with basil leaves and capers. Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Serrage Poulet

This post is part of my Beyond Borders project.  This project focuses on the history, culture and cuisine of peoples who lack their own country or who are minorities in countries.  This is the first post about the Chagossian people. 

They were once known as Folhavahi or Hollhavai. The names given to atolls and islands located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Atolls and islands in which Maldivian sailors found themselves stranded. Apart from providing some safety for endangered sailors, no one had any other interest in these little specks of brown that dotted an ocean of blue. 

Portuguese explorers eventually "found" the atolls and islands in the early 16th century. They gave the archipelago the name of Bassas de Chagas, but they never claimed any of the atolls or islands.  The first claim was made about one hundred years later, after the French settled Reunion in 1665 and Ile de France (now known as Mauritius) in 1715. The French began to issue permits to companies to establish coconut plantations in the 1770s. The French also established the first colony on the largest island, Diego Garcia in 1793. With the colony and the plantations, slaves were forcibly brought to the archipelago from Madagascar and Mozambique.

The British gained control over the atolls and islands, as well as Mauritius and the Seychelles, with the Treaty of 1814. Despite the change in control, the work on the coconut plantations continued. In addition to coconuts, Diego Garcia also became a stop on the slave trade. This brought Malay slaves to the archipelago. The British eventually freed the slaves in 1835, and, many continued to work on the plantations.  Those workers were joined by Indian laborers from the subcontinent.

Clement Saitous, Scene de la viequotidienne a la ville de
Perhos Banhos, 1950
 Photograph: Simon Preston Gallery
The different peoples -- Africans, Indians, Malay, as well as Europeans -- developed their own Creole culture.  They became known as the Creole des Iles or the Ilois; and, they spoke Chagossian Creole, a variant of French Creole. For more than a century, the Ilios grew in number and began to settle some of the outlying islands.

This post is about those people, the Ilios.  Despite living under European control for more than three centuries, the Ilios maintained their own identity. An identity in which, according to one thesis, women were viewed as equals to men, Women are often the heads of the households, because the population on the islands were predominantly female. The Ilios developed their own creole language, with its own vocabulary.  They created their own traditions, their own music, and their own way of life.

When it comes to their cuisine, some say their cusine draws from Mauritian cuisine or Seychellois cuisine, groups of islands that are "neighbors" to the Chagos Islands. However, it may be just as likely that the cuisine of the Chagos Islands drew upon the influences that make up the the Ilois people.  Those influences come from the slaves and laborers who were brought from Africa and Southeast Asia, as well as came from India.  That is perhaps the reason why a dish such as Serrage Poulet makes sense.  The use of turmeric is a hint of South African cuisine; and, the use of garam masala underscores the cuisine of the subcontinent. The use of these spices, along with coconut milk evokes curries across southern and southeast Asia. It all comes together in this one dish.


SERRAGE POULET (CHICKEN IN COCONUT MILK)
Recipe from Travel by Stove and Food.com
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts, cubed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch of ginger, grated
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 can of coconut milk (14 ounces)
2 cinnamon sticks
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:
1. Prepare the chicken.  Combine the ginger, turmeric, garam masala, and cayenne pepper.  Mix the spices well.

2.  Saute the chicken.  Heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the chicken and saute until browned and evenly cooked. 

3.  Finish the dish. Add the coconut milk and the cinnamon sticks.  Bring to a boil and the reduce to a simmer.  Continue to cook until the chicken is completely cooked.  Remove from the heat and serve immediately with white rice. 

*     *     *

What is amazing to me is how the Ilios they maintained their culture and identity over decades and, indeed, centuries. That culture thrived despite the exploitative systems imposed under colonialism and the post-colonial period. It thrive despite the fact that the Ilios did not own their homes.  It thrived despite the fact that they relied upon corporations and governments for much of what they needed. It lives on today, despite injustices at the hands of the governments of both the United Kingdom and the United States. It is an injustice that robbed them of their homeland. That injustice will be the subject of the next post about the Chagossian people and their cuisine. Please stay tuned....

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Chef Bolek's Half Turkey Breast

This is a basic recipe.  It is something that I go to when I am very busy and need something that requires very little prep.  The only thing that needs to be done is the rub.  And, even the rub is simplified so that it can be prepared in a couple of seconds.

The base of the rub is onion powder and garlic powder.  The flavor elements include thyme, coriander and fennel seeds.  (I have recently been on a big fennel kick, especially in roasting, grilling and even barbecue.) All of those ocmponents are just 1 teaspoon.  Additional flavor comes from some stronger herbs, both rosemary and sage. I reduced the amounts for each of these two herbs to half teaspoons each. The rub is completed with a teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  The work is complete. 

This is a great recipe to make on the weekend.  Once the breast is roasted and sliced, then you can make turkey sandwiches for lunch during hte week.  It is a great way to skip the processed meats in the deli section of the local grocery store. 



CHEF BOLEK'S HALF TURKEY BREAST
A Chef Bolek Original 
Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 half turkey breast, about 3 to 4 pounds
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, cracked
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 cup of wateror more if needed
1/8 cup of olive oil, more if needed

Directions;
1.  Prepare the turkey breast.  Combine all of the dried ingredients and mix well.  Brush olive oil all over the turkey breast.  Sprinkle the herb/spice mix all over the turkey breast.

2.  Roast the turkey breast.  Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the breast in a roasting pan, add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of water around the edge of the breast. Roast the turkey breast in the oven until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The end temperature is 165 degrees, but the breast will continue to cook for several minutes afer being removed from the oven. Remove from the oven, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.  Slice thinly and serve immediately or refrigerate for use in sandwiches later.

ENJOY!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Classic Roasted Bone Marrow

I was there for another reason.  I really can't remember it now.  But, I stood at the counter of a local butcher shop ready to purchase something.  Perhaps it was a pork butt.  Maybe it was a brisket point.  Whatever it was, it did not matter. As I waited for the meat, I wandered over to the freezer.  I saw it.  Two long bones, split to reveal the bone marrow.  I knew that I had to buy it.

One of my most favorite things to eat is roasted bone marrow.  If anyone searched through this blog post, he or she would probably find at least five or six recipes in which bone marrow was used as an ingredient.  At one point in time, I had a good source for bone marrow.  The cut were usually small vertical cuts, little disks with just enough marrow to fill a teaspoon or a tablespoon (if one was lucky). That source disappeared long ago, as did the bone marrow recipes. 

Things were different at the butcher shop. These were long marrow bones, cut horizontally. The bone holding in a nice long strip of marrow.  The type of bones that one could order at a fancy restaurant. The types of bones that I would order at a fancy restaurant. 

As wonderful as this ingredient can be, the best part about bone marrow is how simple it is to make. This is perhaps one of the easiest recipes out there. Set the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, a little salt and pepper, and roast for about twenty minutes.  Pull the bones out and garnish them with whatever you want (I like a little roasted garlic and fresh flat leaf parsley). That's it.  Spoon out that wonderful marrow onto some toasted bread and enjoy! 


CLASSIC ROASTED BONE MARROW
Recipe adapted from Honest Cooking
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 marrow bone, cut vertically
2-3 cloves of garlic, roasted, diced
1 clove garlic for the bread
2 teaspoons of flat leaf parsley, minced finely
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
Toasted bread slices

Directions:
1.  Roast the bones.  Preheart the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Place the bones on the pan, cut side up.  Season wtih salt and pepper.  Roast the bones in the oven for 20 minutes.

2.  Toast the bread.  Grill the bread on a hot grill or toast the bread using your toaster.  Peel the garlic clove and rub one side of the bread.  Do not push too hard on the bread, the point is to get the taste and aroma of the garlic on the bread.

3.  Finish the dish.  Once the bones are roasted, remove the pan from the oven. Carefully and safely transfer the hot bones to a serving plate, garnish with roasted garlic and  parsley.

ENJOY!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Jailbreak's Oats & Toffee & Chocolate & Stuff

When it comes porters and stouts, I generally like them simple.  Perhaps I am old fashioned in that respect.  These beers are classics in and of themselves.  The style comes out of London, where brewers were making dark beers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  The beers started out as strong beers, beloved by local street and river porters (hence, the name porter).  The strong porters eventually went out of style, and, brewers reinvented the style in a milder form, which is the predecessor to the typical porter or stout thart one sees today. 

Many brewers have reverse engineered the stout and porter, in a sense of speaking. There has been a big push for imperial versions of the beer, pushing the ABVs up in a probably unintended, but quite coincidental nod to the original stout or porter style. I love imperial porters and stouts.  It is when the brewers take the next step ... adding stuff to the beer ... that I start to have reservations.

When Jailbreak Brewing released its Oats & Toffee & Chocolate & Stuff Imperial Stout, I had those reservations.  I had taken my parents to the Jailbreak Brewing taphouse for lunch and my dad ordered a flight.  This was one of the beers on that flight.  Skeptical, I just ordered the barleywine.  My dad ultimatley bought a four pack (at bit pricey) and left one for me to try.  I eventually opened it the beer and tried it.  It was quite the surprise. 

This beer is an Imperial Oat Milk Stout with Toffee and Chocolate; and, its ABV is a respectable 10.1%. The brewers describe the beer as a "liquid heath bar," with "a plentiful addition of liquid cacao" and a "big hit of peanut butter-esque English toffee upfront followed by pleasing milk chocolate. All of these descriptions. Ordinarily, I want my beer to be a beer, not a snack.  

With that said, this beer was actually pretty good.  The beer poured pitch black, like motor oil, which is the perfect color for a stout. The sweetness was inescapable in the aroma, as the toffee and the chocolate greet the nose almost immediately.  That sweetness was also the primary feature of the taste. In this regard, the milk chocolate was very prominent, making it a little difficult to focus on the chocolate aspects to the flavor.  

Overall this is a very good beer.  I believe it was brewed as a one-off, a version of a line of stouts that Jailbreak has been doing.  Given how great Jailbreak is as a brewery, I should not have had any reservations at all about this beer.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Smoked Rack of Pork Peri-Peri

One of my bucket list items as a cook is to prepare a Smoked Rack of Pork Vindaloo, using Vikram Suderam's recipe in his book Rasika: Flavors of India.  (Actually, the bucket list is to recreate a dinner at Rasika but in my house, including dishes such as Palak Chaat, Calamari Balchao and others). When I bought a bone-in pork roast, I thought this might be the opportunity. However, it was not.  The roast was not ideal (the roast was not cut well, which explains why it was so cheap).  I would also have to go to at least two grocery stores, and, I wanted to prepare this meal for family and guests.  Given the current limitations in this time of social distancing, I would have to put off my bucket list item for a future date. 

That doesn't mean that I could not at least use Chef Suderam's recipes as an inspiration.  Chef Suderam uses a very spice chile paste, which he refers to as a peri-peri paste, as the base for his vindaloo (and other dishes).  The basic piri-piri paste recipe in his book produces a cup, which was enough to use by itself as a rub or marinade for this pork roast. 

However, I got to thinking about those chiles. Although a Goan dish, vindaloo can traces its origins to Portuguese explorers and colonizers. Goa was a Portguese colony until 1961. The Portuguese were known for introducing peppers to their colonies, including those in Angola and Mozambique. Once the peppers took root, figuratively and literally, the cultivation spread beyond the borders of both countries. Today, peri-peri chiles are grown and processed in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda. The reach of the peppers extends as far as Nigeria and Ghana in western sub-Saharan Africa. 

Returning to Rasika, for the moment, Chef Suderam does not use peri-peri peppers for his vindaloo.  Instead, the chef uses Kashmiri chiles to make his peri-peri paste.  Despite the name, these peppers are not grown in Kashmir (or Jammu and Kashmir). Instead, they are principally cultivated in the southwestern Indian state of Karnatka. The Kashmiri chile is relartively mild, clocking in at around 2,000 Scoville units. At this level, the Kashmiri chile is in the company of some well known peppers, such as the passilla, ancho and and poblano peppers. This low level of heat makes the Kashmiri chile particularly popular in cooking, but that popularity is probably more due to the fact that the chile contributes a deep red hue to any curry dish.

It may be just happenstance that Karnatka is just due east of Goa, the Indian state where the famed vindaloo curry calls its home. This geographical relationship provides an explanation for the use of Kashmiri chiles in Chef Suderam's own recipe for vindaloo.  In any event, this recipe put a dent in my Kashmiri chile supply.  Given all of the recipes that I want to make in Rasika, many of which use these chiles, I am going to need to buy some more chiles very soon.  


SMOKED RACK OF PORK PERI-PERI
Peri-Peri Paste from Vikram Suderam, Rasika: Flavors of India, pg. 29
Serves several

Ingredients (for the paste):
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
5 green cardamom pods
1 inch cinnamon stick, crushed
1/4 ounce (about 1 cup of stemed dried Kashmiri chiles, with seeds
5 medium garlic cloves 
1 cup malt vinegar or red wine vinegar

Ingredients (for the pork):
1 six-bone rack of pork
Hickory wood

Directions:
1.  Make the paste.  In a spice grinder, grind the cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon into a powder.  Transfer to a small blender.  Add the chiles, garlic and vinegar. Blend for 10 full minutes, shaking the container or scraping it down every now and then.  The paste should be a deep adobe red, smooth and the texture of a thick tomato sauce. 

2.  Prep the pork.  In a large bowl, coat the rack of pork on all sides with the paste.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, but preferably 24 hours.

3.  Prepare the smoker.  Bring a smoker to a temperature between 250 degrees and 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a drip pan filled with 2 cups of water) under where the pork will sit (if you have a lower rack, or between the coals.  Place the pork on the rack and use a rubber spatula to scrape out any of the marinade left in the bowl and slather it over the top of the pork.

4.  Smoke the Pork.  Smoke the pork roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the roast and let it rest, covered with aluminium foil for about 15 to 20 minutes.  At this point, you can either slice off the bones and then slice the roast into relatively thin cutlets or you can leave the bones on and slice thicker cutlets.  

ENJOY!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Nyonya-Style Steak

This post is part of my Beyond Borders project.  This project focuses on the history, culture and cuisine of peoples who lack their own country or who are minorities in countries.  Each post discusses an aspect of those peoples, as well as a recipe from their cuisine. This is the first post is about the Nynonya people. 

One would think during these times of stay-at-home orders, I would be doing a lot of cooking.  While I am doing some cooking, it is not as much as I would like. There are a couple of reasons.  Work, of course, is one of the main reasons.  The other reason is that I really don't like going to the grocery stores right now.  It is not as enjoyable as it once was.  I have spent quite a bit of my spare time researching how to order directly from farms and other local suppliers.  

Still, I have my fair shares to continue with my cooking hobby.  My beautiful Angel recently bought a couple of sirloin steaks when she went to the grocery store.  I went online looking for recipes and found a recipe for "Nonya-Style Flank Steak" from Steven Raichlen.  According to Steven Raichlen, it is a recipe of steak, Malaysian "Grandmother"-style.  The "style" is defined by the of oyster sauce, anise (or Chinese Five Spice) and topped with fried garlic. As much as I love Steven Raichlen and his contribution to cooking and cuisine (I am a big fan of all his shows), there is a little more to the Nonya-style.

Initially, it is Nyonya, not Nonya. The Nyonya (or Baba Nyonya) are the descendants of the Peranakan Chinese.  The Peranakan Chinese left what is now Guangdong and Fujian in modern-day China.  They emigrated to the Malay peninsula and the islands of what are now Indonesia. The emigration began in the 10th century but mostly took place from the 15th to the 17th centuries.  Thus, the Nyonya are a subculture of Chinese descendants who live in modern-day Malaysia. Those who live in Penang, Malacca and Singapore refer to themselves as Baba Nyonya.

In researching the cuisine of the Nyonya, I came across a very detailed research paper by Chien Y. Ng and Shahrim B. Karim, which can be found here. Both Ng and Karim discuss the historical and contemporary influences on Nyonya cuisine in their paper. They generally describe that cuisine as "a product of of cultural borrowing and cultural innovation through exposure to local sources of food such as ingredients and food preparation, that are non-Chinese." In other words, given the roots from whence they came, the starting point is Chinese cuisine. Once they reached the Malay peninsula, some of the ingredients they would have have used were no longer available or easily attainable.  This is where other cultures, such as the Malay, could fill in the gaps.  This allowed the Nyonya to adapt Chinese cuisine to life on the Malay peninsula.

Commonalities between Nyonya and Malay cuisine emerged over time, particularly when it came ot the use of certain ingredients. Both cuisines extensively use pungent roots (such as turmeric, galangal and ginger), leaves (laksa leaves, galangal leaves, and coriander leaves), spices (cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and nutmeg) and other ingredients (such as lemongrass and tamarind).  One other common ingredient between the two cuisines is the use of chiles. both dried and fresh.

Ng and Karim posit there are three types of Nyonya dishes: (1) traditional Chinese (Hokkien) dishes; (2) Malay-style dishes; and (3) innovated foods. Returning to Steven Raichlen's recipe, the use of oyster sauce, soy sauce, garlic, and turmeric make it hard to distinguish where this recipe draws its inspiration within those types.  Those ingredients are common in both Chinese and Malay cuisine.  It is perhaps the use of Chinese five spice (which is really a Chinese ingredient) that would put this dish in the first category (if categorization were possible).

Overall, this is a very good recipe for a steak, especially when one may be short on time. It was also a great recipe because it got me to look a little further into a culture and cuisine which I never knew about.  That is what cooking means to me.

I just have to remember the fried garlic slices.  Always something for the next time .... 


NYONYA-STYLE STEAK
Recipe adapted from Steven Raichlen
Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
1 1/2 poounds of flank steak, sirloin steak or any steak
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons of Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt.

Directions:
1.  Prepare the marinade.  Heat oil in a small skill over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute.  Transfer the garlic to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.  Pour the garlic flavored oil into a heatproof mixing bowl and let cool to room temperature.  Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, Chinese five spice, turmeric, and pepepr to the garlic oil.  Season with salt to taste.  Pour the marinade over the flank steak, turn it to coat both sides.  Let the steak marinate in the refrigerator, covered, 1 to 4 hours, turning it once or twice.

2. Grill the steak.  Heat a grill on high heat.   Brush and oil the grate.  Drain the steak and arrange it on a hot grate at a diagonal to the bars.  Grill the steak until cooked to taste, about 3 to 5 minuts for medium rare.  Transfer the grille dsteak to a platter and let it rest for 2-3 minutes. Thinly slice the steak and serve it with the fired garlic slices sprinkled on top.

ENJOY!
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